Home Developers and Builders Concerned About Proposed Building Code

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A new proposed building code for the City of Des Moines has developers and builders concerned.

Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity President and Executive Director Lance Henning said this new building code or zoning ordinance would require developers to put in a basement and garage, one story homes would need to have 1,400 square feet of finished space and two-story homes would need to have 1,800 square feet of finished space.

"Quality housing is not dependent on square footage. It's not dependent on basements and it's not dependent on garages. Typically the habitat homes are adding value at almost twice the average sale price of the neighborhoods on there and we don't meet those zoning code requirements," Henning said.

City officials say depending on the neighborhood and other factors there will be a way to reduce the square footage requirement by 30 percent.

“But in newly built areas that the city is investing tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure it really is helpful for the city to say look we’re spending this great deal of money, public tax payer dollars, we need to be able to have some way to recoup that investment. So whatever is built there has to be built to a minimum standard,” Plan DSM Steering Committee member Larry James said.

But Henning believes even if they can build smaller homes under new code it’s going to be a lengthy process and could mean they build less for those in need.

“As you look at the neighborhood that's just right over here those houses there, if we built those all to code it would take an additional 2 million dollars to do that and that means raising more money to have folks be successful in home ownership or it means serving fewer families," Henning said.

James said the new code would actually fill in what they call the ‘missing middle.’

“Not a single family house and not necessarily a big apartment building but a lot of these smaller multi family units that really fit in nicely with neighborhoods and are frankly going to be the source of a lot of new affordable housing,” James said.

City officials will announce some revisions to the new zoning ordinance at Thursday’s Plan and Zoning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. They include removing the requirement for a basement and reducing the minimum square footage requirement.

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