Des Moines to begin housing incentive program for city employees

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines City Council voted unanimously Monday to start a housing grant program to incentivize city employees and Des Moines police officers to live in the city.

The residency incentive program will give a $15,000 forgivable loan to employees who purchase or own a house in Des Moines or a $2,000 reimbursement for renters.

Al Setka, the city’s chief communications officer, said just 37% of city employees, including police officers actually reside in Des Moines.

Councilwoman Connie Boesen — who has been a longtime advocate of such programs — said it’s important to have staff live where they work.

“You get to know your neighbors, you get to understand the people in the community,” she said. “…I’ve always felt it’s important to have that connection to the people in your community.”

Specifically, civil rights advocates in Des Moines and other U.S. cities have argued the importance of having law enforcement live in the communities they are tasked with policing. According to data first obtained by Axios, only 65 out of 357 DMPD officers actually live in Des Moines.

Although, a 2020 USA Today piece found “no evidence” that officer residency makes a difference in improving relations between police and communities.

Boesen said the incentive program is not targeted at a particular segment of city workers, but she believes the more city employees that reside in Des Moines, the better the outcomes for community relations are.

“We’re just trying to create opportunites to have people come live in Des Moines, that work here,” she said. “Especially as new people are hired, this will be a great incentive when you’re making a choice where do you want to live and possibly have people come back into the city.”

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