This February, the first prisoner-built Homes for Iowa house was completed and rolled away from the Newton Correctional Facility. Many of the building materials and some of the construction know-how for the new home came from the Spahn & Rose Newton location.

Begun in June 2019 and based at the Newton Correctional Facility, the Homes for Iowa program addresses the shortage of affordable housing in the state’s rural communities while giving prisoners valuable experience that can lead to employment following their release. The Newton Correctional Facility has been a longtime Spahn & Rose customer, and after the launch of Homes for Iowa, Spahn & Rose offered discounted building materials and expert construction advice from the store’s staff, which combined boasts more than 200 years of industry experience.

Homes for Iowa houses are built and delivered for about $75,000—the state has a very low inventory of homes at that price—but don’t include a lot, foundation or additional finishing touches. For the first few houses, Spahn & Rose supplied discount framing, doors and other building materials. Throughout 2020, Homes for Iowa aims to complete 16 homes with ongoing support from the Newton Spahn & Rose.

“Homes for Iowa is a wonderful program and a win-win that everyone needs,” says Rick Shutts, General Manager of Spahn & Rose in Newton. “It’s rewarding to know that people in the program are getting a new outlook on life.”

In addition to building materials, Spahn & Rose staff assists with general knowledge, providing blueprints, instructions and, later, fasteners to anchor the home to its new foundation. “We help by solving problems, like showing where plumbing needs to go,” Shutts says. “We want to make every home [an Iowan’s] dream home and be there with them at the finish line.”

Some inmates who have been through the Homes for Iowa program have found work in construction after their release. The Iowa Department of Corrections estimates the program may reduce recidivism by up to 25 percent. Over the next decade, about 900 homes are scheduled to be built and delivered to Iowa communities.

“It makes me feel good to make someone else smile,” Shutts says.