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Downtown Workforce Housing Study

The National Low Income Housing Coalition came out with a report in the beginning of 2019 reporting that Des Moines needs to address affordable housing, specifically in the metro area. 60% of Extremely Low-Income tenants cannot afford rental units. Additionally, Des Moines needs to add 11,848 affordable units. 

Because of these findings, Capitol Crossroads, the City of Des Moines, and the Polk County Housing Trust Fund collaborated to find data about the urban Des Moines area. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Households with four or more people have little to no opportunity to find a unit Downtown.
  • Nearly 58,000 households in the Des Moines are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 
  • Polk County will need to add 57,170 net new housing units between 2018 and 2038 to accommodate net new workers in the region. 
  • Polk County will need to add a total of 33,592 new owner-occupied units.
  • On the rental side, these employment-driven housing demand forecasts suggest a need for 23,577 new rental units over the 2018 to 2038 period.

Our Executive Director, Pam Carmichael, attended two presentations this past week speaking about the findings from the report: “We have long known that we have an affordable housing shortage in the Des Moines area. Although we have always known that housing impacts economic development, this report links the need for affordable housing as a workforce and economic development issue. As businesses expand and hire new workers at low wage jobs the workers still need a place to go home at night. If we don’t have available affordable housing our businesses will not be able to grow and prosper. It’s like the old saying; ‘Which came first the chicken or the egg?’.”

“Unfortunately, some people have taken the title of “downtown” totally out of context and believe that this is a Des Moines problem. No, this is a regional problem. Downtown Des Moines does have the largest workforce, however some of the lowest paying jobs are in retail and every suburb in Polk County relies on retail shopping to attract and retain residents.”    

Learn More:
Details about the National Low Income Housing Coalition Report:

Read the Downtown Workforce Housing Study: 

Welcome home!

Open houses are a long-standing tradition in the sale of residential real estate to expose more people to a home for sale. While HOME, Inc. has held open houses for many years, we use them as an opportunity to welcome the new family to their home and show the community what quality affordable housing should look like. 

Last week, we celebrated the completion of our 391st home and the new homeowners, Thanh & Thi with an open house. The new family is from Vietnam and have been in the United States for just two years. Homeownership was always a top priority for them, but with lender restrictions they needed HOME, Inc.’s support and guidance to get homeownership ready. As an organization, we are so proud of all the family was able to overcome and accomplish in only two years in a foreign country without speaking the native language. Congratualtions, Thanh & Thi!

Also, thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to stop by and see the newly constructed home. We were more than pleased with the turnout! It was incredible to see the support of community partners, city representatives, and business leaders. Even more heartwarming, was the representation of neighbors. It was great to see people who live in the neighborhood take notice of the work we did and stop by to celebrate with us. 

During the event, our Homeownership Coordinator collected information on six families interested in using our counseling services to get homebuyer ready. The overwhelmingly positive response to our open house just affirms there is a need for our services. A safe, decent place to live is the cornerstone of a strong community. We are proud to change lives today and for generations to come. 

Pictured above from left to right: Thi Bac & Thanh Ca

Pictured above from left to right: Chris Hensley, Linda Westergaard, Thi Bac, Thanh Ca, Lahn Bui, Tom Hockensmith, and Pam Carmichael 

Pictured above from left to right: Thi Bac,Thanh Ca, and Lahn Bui

The Revolving Loan Pool

Alright, let’s talk math. Everyone’s favorite subject, right?! It might not seem like the most glamorous idea for a blog but when you hear about what HOME, Inc. has done, we hope you gain a bit more passion around math, or non-profits, whichever floats your boat. 

Let’s start with the basics. HOME, Inc. wanted to create a revolving loan pool large enough to acquire land, start projects and reduce the amount of needed in bank loans.  By doing this we could start and complete projects in less time and decrease the amount of borrowed funds.   Reduced construction time and interest paid to lenders decreases the cost of the home to the homebuyer.  Once the house is sold, the money we used from our loan pool is replaced and used in another development project.  The loan pool is strictly for housing development. 

The idea of the revolving loan pool all started in 2017. HOME, Inc. received a $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines in order to create a loan pool.  Those funds were matched by a development grant for Polk County.  HOME, Inc. used our Community Housing Development Organization program income to add $100,000. The loan pool became $300,000 (great job with the math!) and we were ready to start.

There is no doubt that our loan pool has helped to increase our efficiency and capacity while allowing us to keep our homes as affordable as possible. In 2017 we built 5 homes and $690,000 in bank loans and in 2018 we built 6 homes and borrowed $345,000.  In 2019 we expect to build 8 new units. Through increased capacity and using our loan pool as leverage, we will receive $1 million in 0% interest loans and grants to further reduce our need to borrow.

We thank the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation and Polk County for their investment in HOME, Inc.  This grants provided a “gift” that will continue to help provide opportunities for affordable housing today and in the future. 

Surviving Hardships, a Tenants Story

Jamie is a 40-year-old single mother who has overcome many life-changing obstacles since living on the streets since the age of 14. Some of the hardships include parental neglect, abuse, and drug addiction. These were contributing factors in her quitting school in the 5th grade and running away when turmoil in the home escalated. Due to Jamie's inability to read or write she lacks work history so she did what she had to do to survive on the streets. This lifestyle has led to a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, repeat arrests, incarceration, homelessness, multiple pregnancies, and termination of parental rights. 

Jamie struggled with numerous barriers that prevented her from finding safe and affordable housing. These include years of drug addiction, poor credit, blemished background history & probation status, lack of rental history, and simply being low-income. It was incredibly difficult for Jamie to find a unit she could afford on her monthly Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) payment of $733. 

When Jamie was last incarcerated in 2013, she discovered she was pregnant with her 7th child after having another child just one year prior. When she was released, she moved in with one of her older siblings due to being unable to secure housing for herself and two baby boys. Unfortunately, after eight months in a toxic relationship, domestic violence forced Jamie to seek shelter at the Domestic Violence Center. With the help and support from shelter workers, Jamie was connected to many programs and resources during the extended period of six months while she resided there. Some of these included attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, VNS-Respite Care (a program that provided childcare), Children and Families of Iowa Outreach services, transportation, and DHS- waiver program.

Unfortunately, due to her low-income, criminal history, eviction history, lack of housing history, and credit score, Jamie was still unable to find housing for her family after leaving the shelter.

In February 2015, Home, Inc. contacted the Domestic Violence Center about the availability of a 3 bedroom home at HOME, Inc.’s Clark Commons rental property. This opportunity was a perfect fit for Jamie and her boys as it provided an affordable housing option and integrated support services to help her retain the housing unit. While Jamie was concerned that she wouldn’t qualify because she had been turned down by many housing opportunities due to her barriers, she went ahead and applied and was accepted.

Jamie has been living at Clark Commons and working with a case manager in HOME, Inc.’s Integrated Services for the last four years. Jamie's life skills have grown significantly. She has improved her credit dramatically and has obtained bank accounts and a line of credit, created a monthly budget, increased her income by pursuing SSDI for her special needs son, and above all, has increased her self-esteem and confidence. Jamie has continually paid her rent on time and is a really great tenant. 

One of Jamie's goals was to be able to read books to her two younger boys. She is now able to read and not only that, write as well. She is very proud of her accomplishments and ability to be self-sufficient and loves her new home! Jamie's future goals include continuing her sobriety, getting her GED, paying off legal fines and fees, obtaining her driver's license, and eventually seeking employment when the boys attend elementary school.
Jamie continues to survive hardships and everything that life has to throw at her, such as cancer and she is thankfully now in remission. Thanks to her housing stability, she was able to focus on staying strong for her children and herself. Her youngest son is enrolled in school for the fall which allows Jamie to focus on her biggest goal which is to also head back to school to pursue a GED.