May 20, 2022 - News

Des Moines mobile home park demolished after years of struggles

A photo of a mobile home.
This is one of the structures at Oak Hill Mobile Home Park that Des Moines City Council determined in 2015 was unfit for human habitation, ordering it to be demolished. Photo courtesy of the City of Des Moines

A mobile home park on Des Moines' south side is being demolished to make way for a new housing development, according to the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC).

Why it matters: Oak Hill Mobile Home Park, at 3140 Indianola Ave., underscores the complexity that persists with redevelopment, homeowners' rights and efforts to protect low-income families from unsafe conditions.

  • Aging or poorly maintained mobile home parks have been a thorny issue for local officials, who must weigh public safety decisions against a shortage in affordable housing.

Catch up fast: Des Moines tried to shutter the 30-home park back in 2014 after city inspectors cited its now-former owner Mark Ogden with multiple zoning violations.

  • Ogden's citations largely focused on fire hazards, including "crudely constructed additions," like porches that nearly touched adjacent homes.
  • A district court judge and the Iowa Court of Appeals sided with the city. But the Iowa Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2018, ruling Des Moines failed to prove the changes were problematic enough to warrant revoking permits for the park, which had operated since 1955.

The latest: NDC purchased the nearly 2-acre park from Ogden last year for $830,000 — nearly double what it was assessed by Polk County.

  • The nonprofit helped relocate 23 families from the park, NDC director Abbey Gilroy told City Council earlier this month.
  • Home demolition and site cleanup are now underway and NDC plans to apply for an Iowa tax credit program to build affordable housing at the side, Gilroy told Axios.

Details: Gilroy said they're considering constructing townhomes or row houses, similar to NDC's Forest Avenue Village project in the Drake neighborhood.

Zoom out: NDC was created in 1999 with the assistance of Des Moines and Polk County, which both contribute to its funding.

  • The organization regularly reports to the local governments, estimating it has leveraged $3 million worth of development into $40 million in recent years.
A photo of a mobile home park being demolished.
Demolition of Oak Hill Mobile Home Park in Des Moines last week. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios
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