Extension News

Eight Iowa Towns Are Part of ISU Post-Flood Housing Assessment


AMES, Iowa – As Iowa communities hit by this summer’s flooding cope with immediate cleanup and recovery issues, other communities continue to deal with the long-term housing effects of the 2008 floods.

Iowa State University and ISU Extension researchers are working with local officials in eight of those communities: Mason City, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Waverly, Columbus Junction and Charles City. The ISU team is assessing whether new housing constructed since the floods is both affordable to the local population and a spatial match for the communities’ economic base.

“Individual homeowners have made housing choices based on the private housing market—the availability of land for new construction, the availability of homes for sale, their own access to insurance settlements, flood buyouts, mortgages or other financial assistance,” said Tim Borich, associate dean in the ISU College of Design, director of Extension Community and Economic Development, and one of the project’s principal investigators. “Essentially, the private market has done all that it can do, and what gaps remain have not been filled, because something is keeping the market from being able to respond.”

The study, jointly funded by the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED), the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) and the Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO), will help lawmakers and state agencies fill the remaining housing gaps by documenting the needs and tailoring or creating programs to address the situations that flood-impacted communities are facing.

“Communities need a way to assess their housing needs, especially when they are impacted by flooding or other disasters,” said co-investigator Mickey Carlson, ISU Extension housing policy liaison. “Recovery from these situations can be slow, confusing and frustrating for everyone in a community. Our team is developing a process model that communities can use to more easily understand the housing needs of their residents.”

The goal is to make the recovery process more transparent and recovery strategies more effective, Carlson said. However, the model can be used beyond disaster recovery to support informed decision-making, helping community leaders develop sustainable, attractive and vibrant cities.

Field researchers will gather a variety of data in each of the eight cities about housing, community development and flood recovery programs. Focus groups, interviews and surveys in each community will allow local leaders to tell their stories, share their experiences and capture the lessons they’ve learned and the advice they would give to other communities facing similar disaster recovery issues.

A team of ISU economists will examine what portion of the recovery process has been impacted by the nationwide recession and suggest ways to create incentives for housing production that supports the eastern Iowa economy.

Also on the team are researchers from the ISU College of Design’s architecture, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, and geographic information systems (GIS) programs who will provide spatial analysis and mapping of the changes that have occurred in housing, commuting patterns, employment and public amenities.

The ISU team will complete the study and submit it to IDED, IFA and RIO in January 2011.


Contacts :

Abbie Gaffey, Community and Economic Development, 712-539-1169, agaffey@iastate.edu

Sandy Oberbroeckling, Community and Economic Development, 515-294-3721, soberbr@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu