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Pocket Neighborhood could help housing need, businesses in Jackson County

These homes are built in a way to encourage people to get to know their neighbors and communicate more.

MAQUOKETA, Iowa-- A brand new neighborhood in Maquoketa could help address housing and job needs in the county.

Jackson County will need 350 homes built by 2025 to accommodate a growing population and aging houses, according to a 2015 housing needs assessment. Now, the City of Maquoketa is partnering with the East Central Development Corporation (ECDC) to build a "pocket neighborhood."

These homes are built around a shared gathering area to encourage people to get to know their neighbors and communicate more.

"Kind of bringing back the 'borrow the sugar from your neighbor' concept," Holly McPherson, manager of special projects with ECDC said. "We all have busy lifestyles and we forget to check on our neighbors now."

Crews broke ground on the $2.4 million project in September 2019. Maquoketa partnered with about a half dozen local banks and organizations to cover the cost.

Organizers hope to complete construction by January 2020.

The neighborhood, called Bear River Cottages, includes ten homes priced at $149,999. City and community groups have come together to provide $10,000 in down payment assistance.

Four homes have already been bought, but applications are still being accepted for the remaining six. There are income restrictions for buyers and there's a focus on young families, workers, veterans and retirees.

"That will be a huge benefit to the city, to residents of the city, to newcomers, to our local employers who are looking for positions they need filled, so this will hopefully attract individuals and families to our community," McPherson said.

ECDC says if this pocket neighborhood is successful, other cities and counties are interested in building their own to attract workers and get new homes built.

Right now, there's one pocket neighborhood already built in Grinell, Iowa.

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