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Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Royal View Manor, DSM’s largest publicly-owned housing complex, would be sold under a plan that will be unveiled in coming weeks, Municipal Housing Agency director Chris Johansen told Axios.

Why it matters: The change could save the city money, but also narrow affordable-housing options and leave people homeless, multiple housing advocates cautioned.

  • The nine-story complex is home to 200 of our community’s poorest families — some paying as little as $50 a month in rent.

How it works: The complex would be sold with federal approval in a program intended to help address billions of dollars in deferred maintenance at public housing properties across the nation.

  • A private housing developer would own and manage the property. Residents could stay but would use another rent subsidy program known as Section 8.
  • The new owner could then tap into low-income housing tax credit programs and collect more income through Section 8 than the city currently collects in rent.
  • The financing could allow for long-term investments and upgrades to the building that would be difficult to accomplish under the city’s current housing budget, Johansen said.

The other side: There are a lot of important details yet to be worked out that will influence the outcome.

  • The potential buyer is critical because an out-of-state investment group may be less responsive than a local non-profit whose focus is housing, said Eric Burmeister, executive director of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.
  • Tenant rights and whether housing remains affordable are also important for DSM to consider, said Deborah Thrope, deputy director of the National Housing Law Project in California.

What’s next: A meeting with Royal View residents will be scheduled in coming weeks. The sale could take several years to complete.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Des Moines Mayor Cownie pursuing gun ban for City Hall

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Mayor Frank Cownie is pursuing new rules for City Hall as DSM transitions back to in-person meetings, including a weapons ban and installing metal detectors.

  • The effort is partly in response to escalating tensions between the public and city officials, he told Axios.
  • Cownie may also ask the council to consider suspending or banning the most egregious decorum rule breakers from future meetings.

Why it matters: The city wants to improve security and public dialogue without violating constitutional protections to free speech and gun rights. Go deeper (1 min. read)

  • Between the lines: Guns must be allowed in city buildings unless armed security guards are present (they currently aren't) under an Iowa law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds last year.

Flashback: DSM council meetings became noticeably more contentious following the death of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis and calls for police reform reached our city.

  • One council meeting lasted 14 hours because dozens of speakers used 30-minute periods for public discussion on dozens of agenda items.
  • "Troll control" rules were adopted in August, limiting public speakers to 85 seconds on most agenda items, which was partly in response to people who hacked into Zoom meetings and made racist remarks.
  • An open public comment section of the meetings was limited to 30 minutes, sometimes leaving less than 60 seconds per speaker.

Speakers who reach time limits are cut off mid-sentence, driving frustration among some who believe the rules are unfair and intended to silence those who wish to express differing views.

  • A sign of contention: DSM resident Leah Plath began her comments at a public meeting two weeks ago with, "F*** you, Frank" after the mayor cut off earlier speakers for not being germane. (It’s at the 1:32:20 mark of this video).

Of note: Plath didn’t return Jason’s calls but is signed up to speak again at tonight’s council meeting, which is expected to be particularly divisive.

  • At least 45 people have requested to speak.
  • Some will question why a Des Moines police sergeant with a history of excessive force is helping to lead the department's de-escalation training.

What's next: Cownie is consulting with the city's legal team on the possible security measures, which ultimately need council approval. The council will discuss them in coming weeks.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

What $1,500 a month gets you in 3 different Denver neighborhoods

Deco Apartments, Image: © 2021 Google/Google Street View

The average monthly rent for an apartment Denver is around $1,600. We wanted to see what you could find just below that price point.

Here are three apartments in three different Denver neighborhoods that have options for about $1,500 a month.

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas, AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case. Two separate grand juries have now indicted the suspect on murder charges.