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Homes for Iowa house arrives in Denison
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Homes for Iowa house arrives in Denison

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Will be on the market for purchase by an income-qualifying family

For more than a year, the Denison Community Housing Agency has been working on a project to bring a Homes for Iowa house to Denison.

On Thursday afternoon, the house arrived, being transported by Ferneau & Sons House Moving & Raising, of Marshalltown, traveling part of the way on Highway 59 and then eventually up Avenue C to its foundation at the corner with 2nd Avenue North.

Homes for Iowa is an Iowa Prison Industries affordable housing initiative. The houses are built near the Newton Correctional Facility by offenders, who are trained in the skilled building trades.

The purpose of bringing a Homes for Iowa house to Denison is to provide housing for families that are in the low- to moderate-income level.

Members of the housing agency hope to replicate their efforts once the current house is sold.

Among those watching the activity or coming just after the house had been pulled next to its foundation were four of the seven members of the housing agency – Jean Heiden, John Granzen, Lyle Frazier and Evan Blakley. Mayor Pam Soseman, who sits in on the housing agency meetings, and City Manager/City Engineer Terry Crawford, also watched the house being moved into place.

The house will be rolled off the trailer sometime today (Friday, October 8) and may likely already be on its foundation by the time this edition of the Denison Review is available over the counter and at stores.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to watch this,” said Heiden, who heads the Denison Community Housing Agency.

“Actually, we’ve worked on low- to moderate-income (LMI) housing for a long time, and when we had that money (an LMI fund) available, it was the best tool to be able to get it here and get the lot,” Heiden added.

The LMI Fund is a fund within the City of Denison and was created as a requirement from a previous housing development in which the city participated.

A lot of planning took place even before the housing agency was at the point where it was ready to order a Homes for Iowa house from Iowa Prison Industries, including finding a lot at an affordable price.

Heiden listed the finding of the lot among the biggest challenges to the project.

“We also had to work on an application on the financing part because the applicant has to fit into the LMI category,” she said, “and when we look at the price of the house with the lot and the basement, we’re going to have to use some creative financing in order for that to work.”

Heiden continued that the housing agency has it essentially worked out how to make the house affordable for a low- to moderate-income family in Crawford County.

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At one housing agency meeting, it was pointed out that the original budget set for the Homes for Iowa housing project was $155,000. That is based on information that $155,000 was the lowest amount at that time to place a Homes for Iowa house in a community.

However, Crawford pointed out that same meeting that the city council had approved the housing agency to spend up to $165,000 from the city’s low- to moderate-income fund.

Cost of the house and delivery by Iowa Prison Industries is $75,000 and the city paid $10,000 for the lot.

Other costs were incurred for the foundation and basement and plumbing. The purchase of appliances and flooring are other expenses for the housing agency.

“Region XII (Council of Governments) has done houses like this in Jefferson, and so they were giving us the bottom line on the most economical way to get this done,” Heiden explained on Thursday.

“We have some down-payment assistance money that’s available, some grant money we can maybe tap into, so when that right family comes along, we’ll be able to get them into this home.”

The housing agency is completing its application for families in the LMI range, taking an existing document but paring that down to the basic information, because, as Heiden explained, “Their banker is going to be the one that qualifies them income-wise and credit-wise, and then they’ll pass that on to us once they’re qualified.

“That’s going to be the best way to do it, have them go qualify at a bank,” added Heiden, who is a retired banker. “That’s going to give us the best indicator of whether they qualify for this home or not.”

She and Soseman commented that the house is a great addition to the neighborhood and makes use of a lot that had been vacant for years because of its shape.

“Being triangular, with all the trees that had been on here, it just wasn’t desirable for houses, but then this (the Homes for Iowa house) just happened to fit just perfectly in here. Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Heiden.

When we get this one sold, we hope to be able to do another one, now that we’ve got recipe all worked out,” she added. “The next one should be a lot easier.”

Proceeds from the sale of the house will go back into the LMI fund to be used for other housing in the community that will be affordable for families in the LMI range.

Heiden said many tours have been taken in the city to see what lots may be available for future projects.

“We also have to get that lot at the right price to keep our budget at what a family can afford, and the house also has to blend in with the neighborhood also. There are a lot of things to think about,” she said.

The Homes for Iowa house does not come with a garage, in order to keep the purchase price down. The additional of a stand-along garage on the property would be up to the eventual owner.

Similarly, the basement is unfinished but has an egress window should the owner want to construct a basement bedroom at some time. The plumbing for a basement bathroom is also stubbed in.

The housing agency is buying appliances for the house locally, and is close to deciding on the types of floor coverings to use in the various rooms.

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