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Des Moines Approves Housing Incentive Program For City Employees, Police

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Perry Beeman
/
Iowa Capital Dispatch
Downtown Des Moines with a view of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The Des Moines City Council voted Monday to approve a program to encourage city employees to move to Des Moines.

The employee residency incentive program would provide a $15,000 forgivable loan to city employees, including Des Moines police officers, who purchase or own a house in Des Moines. Renters could receive a $2,000 rent reimbursement through the program.

Joshua Barr, director of the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, said the program was meant to foster “a culture of empathy and understanding” while also building the city’s tax base.

“It’s really hard to connect with people if you don’t necessarily live in the community and understand the concerns and needs of people who live in the community,” Barr said.

About 63 percent of city employees do not live in the city, Barr said, and about 79 percent of Des Moines police officers live outside city limits.

Barr was not aware of any other Iowa cities pursuing employee initiative plans. Instead, he pointed toward larger cities like Baltimore, which offers a $5,000 grant to city employees who purchase a home in the city.

“It’s not something novel and new,” he said. “It’s essentially us trying to be more creative and keeping our dollars within the city and building stronger connections between communities.”

Some other states impose residency requirements on city employees, especially police officers. However, Iowa law states that civil servants cannot be required to live in the city where they work.

This article was republished from Iowa Capital Dispatch.