CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa plans to launch an effort to rebrand affordable housing as simply housing for those people “who keep our communities thriving and vibrant,” according to an Iowa Finance Authority spokeswoman.
Armed with research showing Iowans support more affordable housing in their communities and neighborhoods, the IFA plans to launch Welcome Home Iowa later this year to highlight the benefits of housing diversity.
Opponents of affordable housing often are louder than supporters, IFA spokeswoman Ashley Jared told Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Investing in Rural Iowa Task Force Tuesday.
So-called affordable housing projects have been stalled by NIMBY-ism -- not in my backyard — and opposition from neighborhood groups, she said.
That’s a problem because the state has identified the need for an additional 47,000 housing unit by 2030 to meet the needs of Iowa’s workforce.
“Opposers often have the loudest voices,” Jared said, but the IFA found they don’t speak for the community.
In its survey, IFA found 72% of Iowans supported affordable housing despite the typical concerns about congestion and crowded schools, Jared said.
The IFA then “tricked” people by asking them about an affordable housing project proposed in their neighborhood or ZIP code. Support dropped to 65%.
However, after explaining the housing shortage, how the projects would benefit working Iowans and the advantages for the community, Jared said support increased to 73%.
“Messaging definitely helps change minds and hearts,” she said. “We need to lead with messages on the real benefits.”
In rebranding its efforts simply as housing, the IFA hopes to drive home the message that the projects benefit the entire community by making housing attainable for people who work in the community, who provide many of the services on which Iowans depend.
The Welcome Home Iowa is part of what Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg called an “all of the above” strategy that includes incentives and assistance for single-family and multifamily housing as well as downtown upper-story housing including redevelopment of vacant schools.
It also comes amid a push by the governor and Legislature to clear up a backlog of applications for help developing affordable housing.
During the 2021 session, legislators increased funding from $10 million to $17.5 million. In September, Reynolds announced she would use $100 million of federal American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief funds for affordable housing initiatives, including $20 million for the existing Workforce Housing Tax Credit Program projects.
“That’s a really big deal,” Gregg said, explaining that the typical $1 million or
$2 million a year funding supports a couple dozen projects.
“Then you pour some rocket fuel on it — or maybe in Iowa, pour some ethanol on it,” he said. The programs Reynolds targeted “build on something we know has been successful in the recent past.”