A county in south-central Iowa is launching an innovative approach to attract homebuilders, giving away land to prospective contractors.

The Clarke County Development Corporation will give plots of land at no cost to home builders who are willing to take a chance on construction in-and-around the county seat of Osceola.

Bill Trickey, the corporation’s executive director, says there’s a potentially-vibrant housing market just a half hour south of the sprawling Des Moines metro area.

“We’re trying to convince builders that there’s the same kind of demand, or some demand anyway, in rural towns,” Trickey says. “It’s just hard for them to take the risk. It’s a challenge facing all of our rural communities.” Osceola has a population around five-thousand and is home to some 44-hundred non-farm jobs. More than half of those workers live elsewhere. Trickey says employers in Osceola are constantly scrambling to find workers and one solution is to remove the risks for residential developers.

Trickey says, “We will provide a lot to the builder at no cost to the builder and then we will cover the builder’s interest cost on a construction loan for 12 months from the start of the project.” He says many communities offer tax abatements for home buyers, but not many provide incentives for home builders, especially free land.

(Thanks to Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio)