Hundreds of people learned more about affordable housing needs in our community by participating in the Polk County Housing Trust Fund’s fourth annual Affordable Housing Week. The Polk County Housing Trust Fund (PCHTF) hosted several free and public events to educate community members on housing issues and to foster new collaborations between the many people and organizations working to improve quality of life in Central Iowa.

Collaborations were the main topic of discussion at the week’s largest event, Housing Matters: Intersections. Carol Payne from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Baltimore and Amy Slonim of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation both talked to a packed room at Iowa Methodist Medical Center about the interconnectedness of community issues including health, housing, transportation, and education. UnityPoint Health was a perfect host for the event, as both speakers discussed health extensively, and how safe, affordable housing is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. Finally, Pat Boddy from RDG Planning & Design led attendees in an interactive discussion to brainstorm new ideas for collaborative efforts. Attendees learned from leaders actively engaged in cross-sector collaborations including DART & Des Moines Public Schools’ transportation for students, the Transit Future Work Group, and Healthy Homes Des Moines. Hopefully the ideas sparked here will be successful examples for attendees of next year’s event.

The following day, local leaders had the opportunity to see a cross-sector collaboration in action. PCHTF’s semi-annual bus tour focused on Healthy Homes Des Moines, which seeks to mitigate pediatric asthma symptoms through home improvement and education. Over fifty riders visited a family whose young son benefitted from the program and heard from leaders at the many organizations who lead this effort, including UnityPoint Health – Des Moines, the Polk County Health Department, Des Moines Public Schools, and Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, among others.

Finally, on April 16, PCHTF and its partners ASK Studio and the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines presented scholarships to the winners of the Can I Be Your Neighbor Design Challenge. This competition presents high school industrial technology students with the opportunity to design an affordable home for a fictional low-income family. The designs are judged by a panel of experts, including architects, home builders, developers, and community residents. Congratulations to Challenge winner Zach Gavin of Ankeny High, who won a $2,000 scholarship courtesy of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

For photos from Affordable Housing Week events and more, check out PCHTF on Facebook, and stay informed about future events by signing up for the bimonthly PCHTF eNewsletter.