Greater Des Moines can further fuel its economic growth by investing in the right mix of housing options.

This is a key takeaway from a yearlong analysis of workforce housing in the Greater Des Moines region, which found that the current mix of housing falls short of meeting the needs of the current and future workforce.

“It comes down to this: The housing options need to match the jobs,” said Nikki Syverson, Capital Crossroads Director. “If we lose sight of workforce housing, businesses will struggle to compete for employees, and we risk losing economic development to other cities around the country. By coming together as a community and focusing on housing, we will create steady economic stimulus for years to come.”

Guided by researchers from the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, a team of representatives from the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, the Des Moines Area MPO and the Cities of Des Moines, Ankeny, Clive, Norwalk, Urbandale and West Des Moines analyzed data and engaged local stakeholders to better understand market-wide housing dynamics, estimate future workforce housing demand, and assess Downtown’s current and future role in addressing housing needs.

  • Over the next twenty years the MSA is expected to add 150,954 net new jobs;
  • 70% of new working households added to the MSA will have annual incomes below $75,000;
  • Polk County will need to add 57,179 net new housing units before 2038 to accommodate new workers which does not include current housing gap of 58,000 or non-working households;
  • More than 50% of the demand for owner-occupied homes is for homes priced below $175,000;
  • 5% of all rental units will need to have monthly rents below $1,250.

Several efforts are already underway in the region to offer more affordable housing and more variety of housing types. Townhomes and larger units are either under construction or permitted Downtown, the Argonne Apartments are being restored and renovated as affordable housing units, and the City of Pleasant Hill has already seen results from its focus on middle housing with thousands of new units planned. Affordability is defined by the Department for Housing and Urban Development as residents paying no more than 30% of their income on housing.

“Not one solution will fill the affordable housing gap,” said Eric Burmeister, Polk County Housing Trust Fund executive director and Capital Crossroads Physical Capital Tri-Chair. “Cities, developers, the business community will all have to work together to solve this.”

Discussion groups will be held over the summer to identify housing solutions and a strategy plan will be announced late Fall 2019. The full study can be found here.


About Capital Crossroads

Capital Crossroads is a bold but achievable vision pushing Central Iowans to dream big, not settle for good enough, think long term and work together. Capital Crossroads brings together community volunteers to meet the challenges of the future while building on our past successes. It is in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Catch Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Polk County, Prairie Meadows and the United Way of Central Iowa.