The City of Des Moines is getting out of the real estate business, with a big sale of houses and other rental units. Mike Mathis of the city housing department says the buildings were acquired by the city as part of welfare programs. There’s been a public housing program nationwide for about 30 years and it consisted of building and buying affordable housing. That led to cities buying houses and building apartment-style rental projects in the effort to tackle the problem of poor and homeless families, and in the process becoming big property-owners. The city housing agency just got federal H-U-D approval to sell units that will include 156 duplexes, 62 single-family homes and 20 row house units, like condos. Mathis says the sale is an economic move. HUD has cut budgets continually the last 20 years or so and the city can’t keep up the units any more, so it’ll sell them and use Section Eight vouchers to replace city-owned housing. Using the section eight public-assistance program means private owners of rental housing will operate and maintain the units and government’s involvement will only be helping poor families pay the rent. Mathis says it’s easier for cities to pay people’s rent than to be the landlord. Mathis says concentrating poverty like that doesn’t work, compared with a system that lets clients live anywhere in Polk County with government simply paying the rent, and he adds Sioux City made the change years ago. Mathis says after the city sells off houses and apartments, it’ll have more affordable housing, of higher quality, that’ll cost the government less. More than 400 units will be sold at a rate of about fifty per year at “fair market value” will the process is completed. Interested buyers for the old homes can contact the city housing department (at 515-323-8950) to get on a list and receive further info about how the sales will be done.
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