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Two New Homes Available from Keokuk Neighborhood Initiative

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It has taken a while to get to this point, but the Keokuk Neighborhood Initiative (KNI) is accomplishing what it set out to do with the construction of two new homes where dilapidated buildings once stood in established neighborhoods.

“I am super, super excited. Seeing it happen is a really good feeling,” said Shelley Oltmans, KNI’s secretary and treasurer. She is also a founding member of the nonprofit organization and she is Executive Director of the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce.

One of the homes is at 1117 Concert Street; the other is at 722 North 9th Street. Oltmans said the city acquired both sites through a state law that allows communities to take control of nuisance properties that have been abandoned. The city then gave the lots to KNI.

Oltmans said the new houses were built in central Iowa before being transported to Keokuk.

“They are constructed on-site at the Newton Correctional Facility by prisoners that are going through an apprenticeship program in carpentry, and they’re set on foundations that were recently poured in Keokuk,” she said.

The 1,200 square foot homes have three bedrooms, two bedrooms, and a full basement. Each is priced at $165,000.

“I’m pretty confident that we’ll get them sold. I think there is a lot of value there in having a new home,” Oltmans said.

Background on KNI

Oltmans said a group of residents began meeting around five years ago to talk about housing issues in the community. KNI grew out of those meetings and volunteers incorporated KNI in 2017.

“We identified that a good strategy for us as an organization was to look at how we could stabilize neighborhoods with new infill workforce housing, specifically looking at the fact that it would be serving our industries and our employers and also reinvesting in existing neighborhoods to stabilize them,” Oltmans said.

She said they worked with the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, the City of Keokuk, the Keokuk Area Community Foundation, and the Keokuk Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Roquette provided KNI with $35,000 in seed money.

She said KNI hoped to encourage potential homeowners to build new houses on vacant lots.

“We got no bites, so we pivoted and eventually moved to what we’re doing now,” Oltmans said.

“I think people sometimes forget that this kind of stuff doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work and a lot of partners working together to make things happen.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.