A University of Iowa professor says the lack of affordable housing in Iowa is dampening economic development efforts here. Heather MacDonald says when it comes to housing, Iowa is not as competitive as it used to used to be with comparable states

"When our graduates leave with their masters degree, one of the key things that they look at when they’re interviewing for jobs is, ‘How soon am I going to be able to afford a house and how much will I need to earn to move into home ownership?’" MacDonald says.

MacDonald cites a 2006 affordable housing survey which ranks Des Moines 134th out of 202 metro areas, behind cities like Indianapolis, Louisville, Omaha and Wichita. MacDonald warns that kind of data may prompt more Iowa businesses to think twice about expansion here.

"Because if you’re going to have to increase your wage rates to address the lack of availability in the housing market or the fact that people aren’t going to be able to find the sort of housing that they want to invest in, that’s going to be a real cost to employers," MacDonal says, "and they will fact that into their next location decision."

MacDonald, chair U-of-I’s graduate program in urban and regional planning, testified before the Iowa Senate’s Economic Growth Committee on Tuesday. MacDonald recently authored a report which concluded Johnson, Polk and Story Counties have the greatest shortages of affordable housing in Iowa. She suggested legislators should consider new ways of stimulating housing construction and rehabilitation projects in Iowa.