Better housing options for rural Iowa

Guest Column
By: 
Tod Bowman
Iowa State Senator, 29th Dist.

     We’ve been coasting too long on the investments that previous generations made in rural Iowa.

     Each community has unique challenges. Some places lack high-speed Internet access; others need updated water and sewage systems. Meeting local needs with smart investments is essential to job creation, the success of small businesses and other employers, and the quality of life every Iowan wants.

     Many communities do have enough affordable housing to meet demand – whether it be housing for workers, young families or seniors – and it has a ripple effect.

     If workers at a manufacturing plant don’t have a local place to live, they’re forced to commute. In some towns, up to 40 percent of workers commute from outside the county. That means more traffic, wasted time and money driving, and fewer dollars spent in the community where they were earned.

     If a town doesn’t have a senior living community, older Iowans have to stay in their homes long after they can maintain them. By the time those houses come on the market, they are often very rundown.

     This fall, I am working with a statewide group of Iowans on strategies to improve housing in rural Iowa. Some potential solutions presented to the task force include:

     • Focus on quality and affordability – Build more shared living spaces for seniors, renovate and repair older homes for young families, and limit cookie-cutter, new-build subdivisions that are often too costly for working Iowans. We need more homes priced below $120,000.

     • Partnering for success – Bring together key organizations – lenders, developers, housing trusts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – to use their expertise and resources in meeting housing needs.

     • Opening the lines of communication – Homebuyer help is available, but many Iowans don’t know about it. We must simplify the information and find ways to get the word out about, for example, the USDA’s low-interest loans that require no down payment for homebuyers in small towns and rural areas.

     What do you think? I’m always looking for ways to strengthen rural Iowa. If you have ideas to share, I’d love to hear them. Let’s work on solutions together!

 

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