Iowa ranked fourth worst in public housing inspections report

Iowa was an outlier among Great Lakes states regarding public housing quality, according to a Commercial real estate listings and data platform MyEListing.

Wisconsin ranked 16th worst. Minnesota was 31st worst, and Michigan placed 37th worst.

Two U.S. officials said that public housing units are striving to meet standards.

MyEListing reviewed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development physical inspection scores between 2018 and 2020, analyzed data from the department’s physical inspection scores online database and cross-referenced public housing units’ addresses with respective states and cities to determine the locations with the highest number of low-scoring public housing units. The evaluated metropolitan areas had populations of at least 200,000.

Public housing ranges from single-family houses to high rise apartments, the report said. The department owns or subsidizes the houses and local housing agencies perform maintenance and upkeep. The department conducts about 20,000 inspections each year to help ensure families have safe, clean housing.

A perfect HUD inspection score is 100.

The Hawkeye State ranked fourth worst in the nation, MyEListing concluded. Iowa’s average inspection score was 80.56, compared with a U.S. average of 84.10. North Dakota was the worst, with a score of 77.61, while Vermont had the best, 88.46.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area and the Des Moines metropolitan area ranked third and sixth worst in the country with scores of 74.48 and 75.35, respectively. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, South Carolina, had the worst average inspection score of any metropolitan area: 72.55. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, had the best, which was 79.50.

Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency Executive Director Chris Johansen told The Center Square via email Thursday that the report included the 2022 HUD inspection score.

“While the inspection did reveal areas for improvement, it’s worth mentioning 16 points was deducted for erosion near an exterior stairwell and paint overspray on two sprinkler heads in apartment units,” Johansen said. “All issues are important, and once notified our staff promptly rectified the problems, demonstrating our agency’s commitment to maintaining a safe and comfortable living environment for our residents.”

He said his agency may not own a significant number of affordable housing, but it’s committed to providing quality options.

“We have the ability to open our waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers once every 18 months and receive roughly 4,000 applications from families in need,” he said. “The need for affordable housing greatly outweighs the resources owned by our agency.”

The agency’s top priority is to find more affordable housing options, Johansen said. The city recently approved the construction of accessory housing units, which can be integrated into, attached to or built behind existing houses. Des Moines is also fostering high-density housing developments to address growing demand.

“This change encourages diverse housing options for residents and promotes additional opportunities to build housing that addresses what is referred to as the ‘missing middle’ housing,” he said.

A HUD regional spokesperson said in a statement that the department works with all of its local public housing authority partners in the region to provide funding that allows for a standard of safe, decent and sanitary housing.

“The average physical inspection scores shown in the referenced report, while showing that there is always room for improvement, reflect that public housing units in Iowa and Nebraska, on balance, are meeting that standard and are ensuring continued access to quality affordable housing,” the spokesperson said.

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