Prisoner-built home arrives in Muscatine to increase affordable housing

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT
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MUSCATINE, Iowa (KWQC) - The first prisoner-built home arrived in Muscatine County this week. The house is part of Homes for Iowa, a project in which prisoners at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Newton learn construction skills and build houses to be shipped to low-income neighborhoods across the state.

The program trains those incarcerated in construction and prepares them for apprenticeships once released.

“It is absolutely a win-win,” says Charla Schafer, Executive Director at Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, “The recidivism rate for prisoners who are trained on learning home construction is 30 percent less than any other trade training.”

It also brings more affordable housing options to the area.

“We have 1,100 people drive into our community to work because there is not enough housing. We are one thousand units short of affordable housing,” says Schafer.

The prisoner-built homes come turn-key. The home delivered in Muscatine is on the corner of 7th Street and Spring Street.

The potential owner must be a first-time homebuyer, make less than one hundred thousand dollars per year, and plan to live in the area for the next five years. It’s also a way for the city to improve the neighborhood.

“If you start increasing housing at all levels, from there the economic development portions are going to start increasing too,” says Brad Bark, Manager of Community Initiatives with the foundation.

The house features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 1200 square feet of living space, and furnished appliances.

“As it sits today we just have to finish with some flooring and appliances and it will be somebody wonderful home shortly,” Schafer says.

The community foundation hopes to have the owner move in by Christmas. Applications for the home will be available soon.

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