Area Residents Voice Concerns on Proposed 49-Unit Affordable Housing Development – Black Justice Project By Chama St. Louis

On Monday, February 26, the Lake University Housing Association hosted a public meeting to discuss a proposed 49-unit housing development at 1720 W. War Memorial Dr. This location sits near the Comfort Suites and Perkins Family Restaurant. The Northwoods Mall is also nearby.

This development is affordable housing for those between 30% and 60% of the area median income. The area median income is $72,000 per year for a family of four. 30% to 60% of area median income is $15,000 to $30,000 for a single person. When did $30,000 a year for one-person become low-income? That’s a $15 an hour full-time job.

Area residents concerns included access to sidewalks and public transportation for those living in the apartments. The assumption was these “low-income” people would be walking or taking the bus. Despite the concerns expressed last night for access to public transportation, area residents also recently objected to building a new bus terminal across the street on Brandywine. One wonders if they share concerns about “low-income” people having access to sidewalks and public transportation in other parts of the city?

Other concerns included crime, traffic, and property values. The expectation these “low-income” people would bring crime and lower area property values while contributing nothing to the tax-base was rampant. The people living in these apartments have income. Most, if not all will have jobs. South Side Office of Concern (SSOC) owns the project and will apply for nonprofit tax-exempt status. If approved they will not pay property taxes. Those living there will still pay sales taxes, gas taxes, and other taxes. These taxes will contribute to the city budget to pay for city services.

The concern for crime was so high for one area resident they asked if the apartments would be fenced-in. The fear was this would be a Section 8 project and turn into Lexington Hills. As if, Section 8 vouchers automatically lead to crime. The SSOC told the audience, this is not a Section 8 or public housing project.
Let’s be clear these apartments are for working people. Area residents were so excited to have Portillo’s coming to town. Where will the workers at Portillo’s and all the other area restaurants and retail shops live?

Perhaps what was more astonishing is the number of people who actually showed up to voice their concerns about keeping the disadvantaged at a disadvantage.
Peoria needs affordable housing like this. As the economy has transitioned to service work we need to make accommodations for those workers. Many of those living in these apartments will be working two or three service jobs just to make ends meet. Who has time for a crime spree?

Concerned citizens’ comments ranged from displaying indirect to flat-out blatant racist beliefs about the potential residents of the complex.  The real problem lies not in the idea of creating affordable housing in other areas of the city, but in the mentality that the residents of this city carry about those who are people of color or “low-income.”

We need to step-up and show-up when it comes to what gets built-in our community. Others have no problem showing up when it means keeping us out. The community is ours too. We have a voice. Use it.