Apr 6, 2021 - News

Scoop: Des Moines eyes sale of its largest publicly-owned housing complex

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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