Greater Des Moines’ low unemployment rate and reasonable cost of living make it an attractive place to live, but this balance can be precarious and not without future risks, especially when it comes to housing. So said Maya Brennan, a researcher for the Urban Institute and editor of the How Housing Matters website, who spoke in Des Moines on April 5, 2017, as part of The Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series and the Annual Housing Symposium put on by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund during Affordable Housing Week.
“Without a supportive policy landscape, the decision of millennials and others to stay in or come to Des Moines can have unexpected consequences – boosting property values only for those already bought in, while closing the door on other essential members of the workforce,” Brennan says. “Choosing to focus on planning for the right mix of housing, before the market is too hot, is a discussion the region’s leaders and municipalities will want to have sooner rather than later to ensure the region continues to be economically strong and a place all people can thrive.”
Highlights: A Mini Talk with Speaker Maya Brennan
Full Presentation: Speaker Maya Brennan on How Housing Matters for Iowa’s Economy
This is an especially timely discussion for the Des Moines metro, which the U.S. Census Bureau says is the fastest growing region in the Midwest. While exciting, the region needs to be careful to avoid population growth becoming too much of a good thing, says Eric Burmeister, executive director of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund: Is it good news if we don’t have the right mix of housing options for those who will be living and working here?
“If we are going to continue to enjoy the success of our region, then housing needs to be part of economic development,” Burmeister says, noting that regional leaders have identified housing as a critical area of focus in plans such as Capital Crossroads 2.0 and The Tomorrow Plan. “This symposium sets the stage for much-needed insights, discussions and future planning.”
Following her keynote remarks, Brennan will moderate a panel of local officials working to address housing issues in their communities and across the state. They include: Matt Anderson, Assistant City Manager, City of Des Moines; Russ Behrens, City Manager, City of Grinnell; Sam Erickson, Chief Operating Officer, Community Housing Initiatives; and Carolann Jensen, Chief Programs Officer, Iowa Finance Authority.