Sep 8, 2021 - Real Estate

Des Moines considers new approach to redevelopment

Illustration of a dollar sign made out of girders.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Growing frustration with slum and blight along some of Des Moines' busiest corridors has city leaders considering a new approach to redevelopment.

  • Des Moines staff members are developing a plan to potentially establish new districts for popular community improvement programs, specifically tax increment financing (TIF), even before developers ask for city assistance.

Why it matters: It could prompt much-needed improvements throughout the city. But decades of future property tax growth could be tied up in paying for it.

How it works: TIF allows governments to allocate future tax growth in an area to pay for infrastructure. It's been around for decades and is used in almost every state.

  • Cities in Iowa designate "urban renewal areas," which enables them to divert future increases in property taxes within that area to pay for TIF projects.

By the numbers: DSM currently has 20 urban renewal areas.

  • Almost $41 million was spent in the fiscal year that ended in June for TIF-related project incentives or infrastructure, Carrie Kruse, Des Moines' economic development administrator, told Axios.

What they're saying: Pre-designating areas for the potential use of TIF could be a catalyst for improvement along places like the Southeast 14th Street and Southwest 9th Street corridors, City Council members said last month.

  • Des Moines city manager Scott Sanders told the council in August that being proactive is smart, but additional programs other than TIF may be needed to redevelop some areas.

The other side: Peter Fisher from Common Good Iowa told Axios that TIF incentives are overused and siphon revenue from schools or local governments that can lead to increases in property tax rates.

What's next: The council will further discuss the idea during an October work session.


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