Most Eddy Apartment Residents Have Found Housing Elsewhere, Thanks to Polk County

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's been nearly six months since the Eddy apartment building fire on Polk Boulevard killed four people and displaced 64 others.
At the time, those displaced by the fire didn't know where they would live.

"The question that has come to us many times is well, why didn't the Eddy have sprinkler systems?" said Phil Delafield, Community Development Director for the City of Des Moines. "Well, the codes that were in effect at that time didn't require them."

The Eddy was built in 1923. Fire science has come come a long way since then, and so have construction and fire codes.

"As buildings are renovated, as you hit certain thresholds of construction, the amount of construction, then it triggers those requirements," said Delafield. "So when they submit the plans for the Eddy for the interior rehab, we'll be looking at those threshold levels to see if sprinklers will be required."

It's unclear what those plans will be, but as far as Delafield understands, the Eddy will be rehabilitated.

"We've issued a permit so far for roof repair, but they haven't yet developed plans for the interior," said Delafield. "They've hired an architectural firm to look at the repairs that are necessary and then they'll apply for permit."

Eric Burmeister, Executive Director of Polk County Housing Trust Fund, fears the rehab may lead to a loss of "naturally occurring affordable housing," which means there are no requirements that the Eddy remain affordable.

"People are being forced to pay more of their income every month for rent," said Burmeister. "So I don't know how long we'll be able to find apartments in this city that are under, you know, $600 a month anymore."

The good news is, regardless of whatever happens to the Eddy, Polk County was able to help most of the Eddy's residents find housing elsewhere.

"We started working with them on filling out applications and looking at what was affordable and available in (the) Des Moines area or in an area that would keep them still within maybe school, or jobs, or family, if that's what they wanted," said Betty Devine, Director of Polk County Community, Family & Youth Services.

Devine says with the help of non-profit agencies, Polk County was able to find housing for more than 50 of the 64 residents who were displaced by the fire. Some of the remaining residents stayed with family or did not want help.