Homeowners in Des Moines could be required to make property improvements under a proposed city program that aims to make the community a more desirable place to live.
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Why it matters: We all know examples of terribly maintained properties that reflect badly on our neighborhoods. City leaders are presenting the program as a way to fix the most egregious of those situations.
Background: Like many older cities, some of Des Moines’ neighborhoods have struggled to keep up with regional housing markets and that’s often attributed to urban decay.
The latest: Des Moines is now considering a city ordinance to establish a property improvement program that would help make loans, grants and other assistance available to those who are physically or financially unable to make the fixes.
Of note: Code enforcement — which can lead to property assessments or liens — would be a rare, last resort, SuAnn Donovan, assistant director of the city Neighborhood Services division, told the City Council last month.
What they’re saying: Minority and low-income owners are oftentimes disproportionately affected by such ordinances, which can be burdensome or prohibitive even with city assistance, ACLU of Iowa spokesperson Veronica Fowler told Axios.
With existing tension among lawmakers over property rights, Councilperson Joe Gatto fears the city’s ordinance could raise the stakes and prompt a statewide ban against such efforts.
Yes, but: Multiple cities in Iowa already have property maintenance ordinances, including Bettendorf, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Cedar Rapids and Clinton, Donovan told Axios.
Cities without such measures have little ability to require homeowner improvements until a property becomes so deteriorated that it’s a public nuisance. By that point, it’s often too late to avoid demolition, Neighborhood Services director Chris Johansen tsaid.
What’s next: The council will meet Sept. 13 to discuss program details, then neighborhood meetings will be held from Sept. 14 through October.
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