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How Affordable Housing Plans Shape DSM Mayoral Race

Several mayoral candidates with extensive, but different backgrounds dealing with Des Moines’ rising shortage of affordable housing have proposed varied approaches to solve the issue ahead of Nov. 5 elections.

Incumbent Mayor Frank Cownie, who has led the city through rapid downtown development during his 16-year tenure, is up against local affordable housing developer Jack Hatch, former homeless veteran Chase Holm and former congressional candidate Joe Grandanette. The mayoral race comes amid the city’s need for housing reform in order to keep up with a growing workforce, rising home prices and a shortage of affordable options.

“We are challenged, because we know that these net new units that we need, simply, under today’s conditions and circumstances, the markets alone can’t keep up,” said Polk County Housing Trust Fund executive director Eric Burmeister, at a recent workforce housing forum for current and prospective elected officials.

Polk County will need to add 57,170 net new housing units before 2038 to accommodate new workers, according to Housing Trust Fund data, with more than more than 50% of that demand for homes priced below $175,000.

Burmeister said the way the housing market currently is, it is impossible to find a new unit for $175,000 — the best alternative goes for about $225,000. This means mayoral candidates, along with other elected officials, need to accommodate the growing concerns.

“What that means is that you guys, as elected officials are going to have to look outside of the box a bit. If this is what’s coming at us, how are we going to think outside of the box to accommodate it?” Burmeister said.

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