Sep 22, 2022 - News

Polk County ponders a new affordable housing model

Illustration of San Francisco row of houses with dollar signs floating above them
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Homes would remain "affordable forever" under an idea being discussed among Polk County officials to buy and permanently own land used for low-income housing.

Why it matters: Advocates contend that creating a Community Land Trust (CLT) could help end a cycle where a home loses its affordability when ownership changes hands.

How it works: Low-income families would buy a home in the program at a discounted price but lease the land that it sits on.

  • The occupants would agree that when they sell the home, it would be at a restricted price to another low-income family.

Driving the news: A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) — a network of metro churches and community groups — is advocating for the formation of a DSM metro CLT.

  • Polk County Supervisors held a public meeting last week to discuss the idea with the group but made no decision on whether to support a program.

Of note: AMOS is the same group that helped create downtown's Lauridsen Skate Park.

State of play: AMOS' goal is to launch community discussion and encourage government participation in forming a CLT, Cheryl Fraracci, an organizer from DSM's Grace United Methodist Church, tells Axios.

  • The program would likely be run by a local nonprofit housing group.
  • Details such as startup costs and program guidelines would be left to whatever organization might ultimately run the program, she said.

Catch up fast: CLTs have been around for decades and more than 200 are already in play across the U.S., according to Grounded Solutions Network, a California-based group that advocates for affordable housing.

  • More communities are seeking them as a solution to skyrocketing home prices, according to an article published this year by Stateline.

The intrigue: The National League of Cities recently told its members that CLTs can help households gain access to homeownership and build wealth.

  • They can also help the larger community better weather economic downturns by increasing neighborhood stability and decreasing problems like foreclosure.

What's next: AMOS is organizing upcoming seminars with CLT experts and metro leaders that will take place in November.

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