As the executive director of the Housing Fund for Linn County (HFfLC) and having worked in affordable housing for nearly 25 years, I know that the need for safe, affordable housing has increased, while public misunderstanding and diminishing resources has made it more difficult to build and preserve. Even though it is more challenging, HFfLC continues to try and meet a small portion of this need for more affordable housing.
HFfLC is the only certified housing trust fund in Linn County, and the only entity that is eligible to apply for state housing trust fund dollars for its residents. HFfLC, a local 501(c) (3), receives state funding through the Iowa Finance Authority and combines it with other sources and makes it available to housing organizations, local governments and developers who create housing opportunities for low-to-moderate income people. Since its inception, HFfLC has provided nearly $3 million to entities that have benefited nearly 1,200 households by creating new or preserving existing housing, or by providing down payment or rental assistance. While the dollars that HFfLC has provided is significant, the need continues to be greater than the funding that is available.
HFfLC recognizes the importance of collaboration among its many partners in order to more significantly impact this great need for more affordable, safe housing in our communities. The HFfLC board of directors wanted to be a part of the bus tour, because we wanted to highlight the vital work our partners are doing, as well as demonstrate to the public what affordable housing looks like and who might reside there. The public often has a misinformed idea and assumes affordable housing will not be a good neighbor and that it will lower surrounding property values. Many do not understand that affordable housing already exists in their neighborhoods and those living in it may be our elderly family members or our friends working in restaurants, offices or clinics, and they are good neighbors.
It was hoped that the tour participants would witness affordable housing within each neighborhood and gain a better understanding of the positive impact it has and dispel some of the misinformation. Many tour participants told me that they learned something on the bus tour and that it had made a positive impression on them. I suspect that many who were able to go on the bus tour already had a more open mind toward affordable housing, but I also believe their participation will spark more interest from others.
The collaborative partner organizations hope to offer more bus tours in the future, as well as any other educational opportunities that would highlight the positive impact affordable housing has on our neighborhoods. In the meantime, community residents can keep their ears and minds open to learn more about the need for affordable housing, why the need exists, and why it is imperative that we as a community join forces with the collaboration to ensure that all people in Linn County have the opportunity to live in safe affordable housing.
• Tracey Achenbach is executive director of the Housing Fund for Linn County.