Bill Menner and Debi Durham to Keynote Southeast Iowa Housing Conference in May

Iowa Rural Development State Director Bill Menner. USDA photo by Ken Hammond

Big names in economic development are presenting at the Southeast Iowa Housing Conference taking place in Fairfield on May 21. Bill Menner and Debi Durham keynote this solution-oriented conference for rural communities in Southeast Iowa.

Bill Menner is the Executive Director of Iowa Rural Development Council. His keynote address, “Raising the Roof – Addressing Iowa’s Rural Housing Crisis,” will discuss the reasons behind the housing crisis, steps local leaders can take to address them, and policies that could help.

Debi Durham is the Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority.

Iowa Finance Authority and Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham

In her keynote, “Housing: At the Intersection of Thriving Communities,” she will examine resources that are available to help expand opportunities for all generations to live and work in Southeast Iowa.

Communities throughout southeast Iowa are invited to come hear Menner and Durham speak, and participate in this conference designed to provide practical help in addressing rural housing needs.

“Housing is without a doubt one of the top two issues confronting rural Iowa today,” notes Menner. “It’s a function of many issues: availability, affordability and desirability are certainly factors. But rural residents, due to the relatively sparsity of our population, have to deal with the risk that exists for developers, builders and lenders. That risk often incents the development of more housing in urban and suburban areas, usually at the expense of small towns.”

Menner also points out the many facets of rural housing needs, such as more single-family housing, more rental housing, or the need to address the condition of existing homes built before 1940.

“Every community needs to know that its workforce can find a place to live within a reasonable commuting distance,” says Durham. “By focusing on a healthy housing market, communities can be more economically productive, workers can apply their skills where they are most needed and families can have the backbone for successes…a place to call home.”

The Housing Conference is hosted by Pathfinders RC&D, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and the University of Iowa, with support from The Fairfield Economic Development Association, The Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, Alliant Energy, Opportunity Squared, and The Iowa Housing Partnership.

People working on or concerned about housing issues in their communities can register now for the full day conference on May 21st in Fairfield.