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Prison Home Program Possible in Tri State Region

Jason Parrott
The new Iowa State Penitentiary could be a possible location for a home construction program proposed for the tri-state region

A top priority for the Tri-State Development Summit is to make affordable housing available for more individuals and families in western Illinois, southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri.  The organization was formed after the Flood of 1993 as a means for local leaders to keep in better contact.
One branch of that effort is the summit's Housing Task Force, which includes Carla Potts, who is the Deputy Director of Housing for NECAC, which is based in Bowling Green, Mo.
Potts said a potential solution is the proposed Aspire Partnership. "We are looking at the homes being built in a correctional center," said Potts.  "The homes would be built from the ground up by the prisoners. (They) would be trained in all facets of home construction.”

The homes would then be delivered and placed on a pre-set foundation.

Potts said the program has been quite successful in South Dakota for nearly 20 years.  She said it has resulted in the construction of more than 1,900 homes.

Potts said the Housing Task Force is in early talks with the Iowa Department of Corrections and Iowa Prison Industries on a possible location.  One possibility is the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

“We’ve really got good feedback from the Iowa Prison Industries," said Potts, "so I think we will continue to work hard there.”

Potts said statistics from the US Census Bureau show home ownership is at its lowest level in the last 20 years, so she thinks this is a good time to create the program since it targets individuals and families who otherwise might not be homeowners.

“You’re being able to purchase a home you can afford that’s energy efficient," said Potts, "and you are getting new homes into the community that helps tax bases and school districts.”

Potts said if the program becomes a reality, she's confident it will be a win-win for everyone involved.  She sais there’s no timeline, though, for it getting up and running.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.