May 24, 2021 - News

Des Moines considers residency incentives for city employees

A lock and key with a dollar sign keychain.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Des Moines employees who live in and work for the city would be eligible for $15K in housing grants or $2K in rent assistance under a plan that goes before the City Council Monday.

Why it matters: Most city employees don't live in DSM, which critics say fuels a disconnect with the community that can negatively influence services.

  • A lack of police residency has been a specific focus for some civil rights advocates who argue it leads to racial profiling and higher minority arrest rates. (Fewer than one in five DSM officers live in the city.)

Flashback: The DSM Civil and Human Rights Commission recommended city employee housing incentives in a 2019 report about how to make the city more equitable.

  • The incentives also aim to keep money within the city and grow tax revenue.

Details: City Manager Scott Sanders would develop and administer the incentive policy for DSM's roughly 1,800 employees.

  • Cost estimates and program restrictions haven't been announced yet but Sanders' office last week provided Axios with a statement summarizing the proposed incentives.

Be smart: Some local governments have used similar incentives for years, including San Antonio, Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • They work but are oftentimes limited by what municipalities can afford, according to Governing, a California-based publication.

What's next: Monday’s virtual City Council meeting begins at 4:30pm.


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