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  • Writer's pictureLynsey Krusie

Local Housing Needs

We recently hosted a Housing Summit with our collaborative partners from the City of Muscatine, Muscatine County, and Kent Corporation to discuss housing needs in our community. Debi Durham and Michael Gould from the Iowa Economic Development Association spoke to those in attendance.

Why the focus on housing? Because housing is one of our county’s biggest opportunities. What we know is our strong need for housing is a good problem to have because it simply means people want to live here; we just don’t have room.

In 1968, Stanley Consultants prepared a report on the need for housing and although our population has grown nominally since, a couple of significant shifts have also occurred putting more pressure on housing stock: household size has dropped significantly, and seniors are living in their homes longer. Our growth, both economic and population, are then constrained by availability of housing.

Top 10 factors to consider as it pertains to local housing:

1. Community housing is complex and requires multi-faceted engagement from rehab to build.

- That is why the aforementioned partners recently came together to spearhead a housing plan and will be engaging other partners to approach this priority collaboratively.

2. Housing is vital for economic development.

- Employment is built through employer demand and consumer demand; thus, it is difficult to attract new business when there is no place for employees to go home to.

- And, we know it is easier to lose an employee when they don’t live and work in the same community.

3. There is a supply-side failure.

- A couple of months ago there were 26 homes on the market in Muscatine out of 9,500 households.

- Fewer developers are building workforce units due to limited margins of profitability.

- And, once a home is gone, it is gone. So we need to stem the runoff of dilapidated housing.

4. Over 11,000 people drive into our county each day to work.

- Housing options often do not match needed affordability or expectations of type.

5. Home ownership is harder to obtain now than in the past.

- The share of renter occupied units has grown to nearly 1/3 of all units in our community.

- Increasing costs of rent, healthcare, childcare, and college costs make it harder to save for a down payment. Limited supply means higher income households are out-competing lower income households for the same homes, leaving no place to enter the market.

6. 43% of renters and 20% of homeowners are housing burdened.

- “Housing burdened” is defined as paying more than 30% of a household income for housing.

- According to the most recent housing study, the only local area with higher rents is Bettendorf.

- The average age of homes is 52 years old which often creates rising costs to maintain.

7. Affordable, quality housing is health care.

- In order to pay for housing, many delay accessing health care and/or stretch expensive medicines, creating higher community system costs and deeper difficulties for the impacted families

- Unaffordable housing is increasing food insecurity as families make choices between housing and food

8. Children on free lunch change schools three to four times more often within our school district in a given year than children on paid lunch plans.

- Moving due to housing instability can set a child back six months academically and affect the entire classroom.

- Unplanned housing mobility within a community is not beneficial for neighborhoods. Transitional living often diminishes neighborhood community, pride, and watchfulness

9. Remote work is Increasing. This is an opportunity.

- 14 to 23 million people that now work remotely are planning to relocate, and many are choosing to move home.

- In surveys, more than half of Americans indicated that they would prefer to live in a small town or rural area.

10. The housing stock is our largest single capital investment and collective community asset.

- Short-term investments will create long-term revenue stream through property taxes and household spending.

- The current suppressed rate environment creates opportunities. Although current housing costs are higher, the mortgage carrying costs for the homeowner are less.

Expanding workforce housing equates to community and economic vitality. This is achievable when we take action collaboratively across sectors.

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