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Increasing rent in Iowa worries low-income housing advocates

Housing advocates worry about the price increase in rental properties and how this could negatively impact some of the most vulnerable.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Rental prices across the country increased from 2020 to 2021. In Iowa, they went up over 12% during that time period, and they keep rising. 

"One of the issues is that …the supply to purchase a home in Des Moines is a ten-year low, and so because of that there are just more people who are remaining in rental housing for a longer period of time," Polk County Housing Trust Fund Director of Outreach and Communications Matt Hauge said.

For a one-bedroom apartment, the average rent in the state rose from $807 in 2020 to $905 in 2021.

Hauge said the increase might not seem like a lot, but for someone on a fixed income, it is. He also noted an apartment at that price is too costly for some who makes $14 dollars an hour or less.

Hauge added what makes the rent increase worse: affordable or government-funded housing in Polk County is hard to get. 

"We had a lack of supply of housing affordable to real working people in this community prior to the pandemic," he said. "This was a significant challenge and now the economic disruption that families have faced has only made things worse."

According to a graph from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are only 37 available and affordable houses per 100 extremely low-income renters. 

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Anne Bacon, the CEO of Impact Community Action Partnership, said seeing the rent increases the last year is troubling. 

"We have a large number of people who are working full time who still can't afford that most basic of need of housing," she said.

Her office is seeing more people reach out for rental assistance, and she added the people they began helping a year ago with rental assistance are still struggling. 

"We're also starting to see an increase of eviction fillings which indicates that families are not able to keep up with their rent," Bacon said.

For those who are struggling with rent, she said they can reach out to her organization for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The program was temporarily paused in February due to running out of money, but the funds have since been replenished.

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