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Des Moines Has an Affordable Housing Problem

Andrea Booher


With just 30 units for every 100 families in need of shelter, Des Moines has less affordable housing available than Brooklyn, Boston, or Omaha. Even when housing can be secured, often following a wait that can last several months, or even years, the quality and safety of affordable housing may be questionable in Polk County.

On this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by Des Moines Register reporter Lee Rood, whose Reader’s Watchdog column recently explored problematic living conditions including black mold and severe water damage in one of Des Moines’ limited affordable housing complexes.


Rood sites a local study showing that 44 percent of Polk County and eastern Dallas County residents are "rent burdened," meaning they spend at least 30 percent of their income on rent. Of that population, 63 percent, which Rood describes as the "lowest income people in our area," live in the city of Des Moines.


"Some of these people are just being thrown from place, to place, to place, barely getting by just above homelessness," Rood says. "But really, a lot of these people are working full time jobs, sometimes two jobs, and still can't make enough money to pay the growing rents in places like Sherman Hill and Woodland Heights that are becoming more gentrified and with higher priced rent."


Later in the hour, Kieffer and Rood are joined by Lauren Johnson and Eric Burmeister from the Polk County Housing Trust Fund for a further look into affordable housing concerns in central Iowa.


Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River