Trends in Housing Affordability in Iowa, 1990-2010

Lack of decent, safe and reasonably-priced housing has significant negative impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of families, individuals and children. These impacts affect labor productivity, healthcare costs, and educational outcomes of K-12 children. In turn, this results in slower economic growth, and lower quality of life and life satisfaction.

This map, created by the Housing & Land Use Policy program at the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center, provides an interactive format to explore changes in housing affordability in each county in the state of Iowa between 1990 and 2010. The map depicts information about households at two levels of housing cost burden; households that are cost-burdened (spending over 30% of income on housing) and those that are extremely cost-burdened (spending over 50% of income on housing). The latter group is a subset of the former. The higher the percentage of cost-burdened households, the lower the availability of reasonably-priced housing. The greater the percentage of extremely cost-burdened households, the more severe the housing affordability crisis.

Overall, Iowa’s housing crisis is not as severe as the nation’s housing crisis. However, housing in Iowa became significantly less affordable between 1990 and 2010 (especially for renter households). In 1990 in Iowa, 33.5% of renter households, 12.4% of owner households and 19.4% of all households were housing cost-burdened. That same year in the U.S., 38.6% of renter households, 19.4% of owner households and 27.3% of all households were housing cost-burdened. By 2010, in Iowa, 40.3% of renter households, 20.0% of owner households and 25.5% of all households were housing cost-burdened. In comparison in the U.S. in 2010, 47.4% of renters, 30.4% of owners and 35.9% of all households were cost-burdened.

Today, over one-fourth of all households in Iowa are reeling under the burden of high housing costs. Many of these households have one or two working adults; these households’ chances for accumulating wealth and having a better quality of life are being compromised by high housing costs. A large percentage of these households have children in K-12 schools; educational attainments of these children are adversely affected by high housing costs. A significant proportion of cost-burdened households is older Iowans, whose chances of living in homes and communities of their choice and for receiving good health care are being diminished by high housing costs.

Housing Type

All Households



Burden Level

Cost Burdened ?
Extremely Cost Burdened ?

Aggregate Level

Metropolitan Statistical Areas


Percent of Households Cost-Burdened

Data Sources

This map was created using data from the U.S. census for 1990 and 2000 and the five-year estimates of the American Community Survey for 2010. The Public Policy Center will update the 2010 information if and when more accurate information becomes available. For more details about the data used in creating this map, please contact us.