Recently, the One Economy: Blueprint for Action Report was published and displayed the inequalities of Black people and the white population in Des Moines, and as they say, A Tale of Two Cities. This action report focused on five sectors of everyday life, financial inclusion, employment, education, health, and housing. As we are an affordable housing non-profit, today we will focus on the main findings from the housing category, though we know housing is part of the problem, there is more to people’s lives. To read the whole report click here: https://bit.ly/oneeconomy20
Some of the main data from the housing category show a gap in homeownership rates between Black residents and the general population. In Polk County, 69.3 percent of Black people rent their homes, compared to 32.9 percent of the general population. Out of all homeowners in Des Moines, Black people make up only 2.6% of that population. Black people are also paying more for their rent. The rule of thumb is that one should not spend more than 30% of their income on rent, though Black people spend 53.3% of their income. Because of expensive leases, and lower incomes compared to the general population, Black people are more likely to be cost-burdened renters. There is not enough affordable housing in Des Moines. In 2019, there were 424 units available and 797 households on the waiting list.
Those are a few of the statistics regarding housing in Des Moines. As we meet and work with Black people and other minority communities, we are aware of the impact of these disparities have on their lives. The Blueprint for Action provides great information and ways to continue working for our goal of making sure everyone can retain and attain safe and affordable housing.
The first strategy includes a better collection of data. One Economy states, “It is critical to collect data from local nonprofits and government agencies on the number of Black families who are receiving financial or educational support to buy a home. Currently, this data is not being collected comprehensively. It is crucial to have this information in order to understand how many Black people are being served and how many more still need support, and to analyze any racial disparities in supportive services.” As a nonprofit organization that provides financial and educational support, we strive for having accurate and thorough data and records.
The second strategy includes communicating with lenders. To increase the number of Black mortgage applicants and approvals, we need to communicate and educate all parties involved to help find solutions to help all applicants reach their goals.
The fifth strategy includes a marketing campaign to spread information about the benefits of homeownership. Through social media, our website, and newsletter, HOME, Inc. strives to spread information providing resources and information regarding homeownership, rental rights and responsibilities, and programs HOME, Inc. provides.
Another strategy regarding cost-burdened renters includes identifying discriminatory practices in renting. “Discriminatory practices, such as blatant preferential treatment, outsized emphasis on criminal background checks, and prejudicial evictions, can all work to bar access to rental housing for Black families.” HOME, Inc. works closely with both tenants and landlords to help make sure they know their rights and responsibilities when renting. We provide resources, such as our renter housing handbook, https://www.homeincdsm.org/renters-landlords/handbook/, and counselors who will help through any discriminatory actions or will refer to someone who can better help.
Strategy two in the cost-burdened renters’ category includes compiling rent assistance programs. We support families through our HOPE for Stable Families program which helps retain housing and schooling for families. We work with the United Way of Central Iowa to provide this service. Having a city-wide resource list would be beneficial for communities in need and would make sure that each person receives the right resource and support.
The last strategy to help lower the amount of cost-burdened renters in Des Moines includes a public awareness campaign. We agree spreading the message of inequities in housing is important. By spreading the message of affordable housing in media channels and public discourse we will have a higher homeownership rate and less cost-burdened renters!
To view the whole One Economy Report, click here: https://bit.ly/oneeconomy20 For this blog we focused on pages 19, 40-42.