Local org proposes affordable housing, residents still left with - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Local org proposes affordable housing, residents still left with several unanswered questions

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PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

An organization known for its homeless outreach is extending its resources by proposing a new housing development.  Southside Office of Concern  says homelessness is in part due to lack of affordable options and they want to change that.

S.O.O.C says the housing development, Meadowbrook Place, is not to be mistaken for public housing or a homeless shelter, despite confusion on who the new homes cater to.

During a meeting to explain the plan to residents of the Lake University Area, some of that confusion was cleared up, but not all.

There was standing room only inside St. Paul Lutheran Church Monday night, where those residents filled the aisles and all the space in between, waiting to ask questions about Meadowbrook Place.

"What am I gonna have to pay more for? We're a high tax city. I only have so many dollars." said Dana Wagner, one attendee. 

The list of concerns for the building were lengthy, including questions regarding taxes, infrastructure and security. One individual asked about the possibility of crime rates spiking if the housing development was for low income families - which it is not.

Christine Kahl, President and CEO of S.O.O.C said she wanted to clear that up. "Most people know us for the homeless work that we do. Well, the number one cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. All of the community plans developed by the city, and by the housing authority all speaks to the fact that we simply need more affordable housing."

Wagner explained that he, like others in attendance aren't necessarily against the development, just confused as to why they want to build at 1720 W. War Memorial Drive, adding "It's by the interstate. It's by the highway. It just seems like a...how should I say it...an uncomfortable, inopportune place to put it."

Kahl explained to residents, some Peoria city council members in attendance, the mayor and city manager, that S.O.O.C will not be asking the city for money to fund the 49-unit building. Instead, she explained their proposal will be sent to Illinois Housing Development Authority to secure capitol funds to acquire the property and to build the complex. 

Peoria's 4th District Councilman Jim Montelongo says despite being in the beginning stages of the plan,  the proposed apartment building still raises some red flags.

"There's no sidewalks and to be along Meadowbrook which is a crumbling road...very narrow and that's just dangerous." stated Montelongo.

Some 300 people were there to learn about the project, and as such, many questions were left unanswered. Jennifer Hutsell, President of the Lake University Housing Association moderated the event, and read as many questions as she could in the allotted hour, from index cards. Hutsell says she's pleased with the first round of questions and will be actively following up with city council to bring updates to her community. 

The proposed housing, which would be in Councilman Chuck Grayeb's district, just recently popped up on his radar. He and other city council members along with Mayor Ardis told the room there was no previous discussion about the proposal prior to the meeting. Grayeb stated the council isn't prepared to reach any conclusions  yet, but it will certainly be something they discuss moving forward.

"What's being proposed is putting a mini city right in the middle of all these neighborhoods. There's naturally going to be a lot of questions and concerns and the council needs to weigh in on this and make a good decision. I believe we will." said Grayeb. 

Southside Office of Concern says the average income for families in the Lake University area is about $73,000.

Kahl explained that may sound like a lot on paper, but for a family of four, they could be spending more than 30% of their gross income just on housing. She added that there will be a committee to select how residents are chosen; income as the main factor, along with a clean background check, but she also ensured that the spectrum of rent would never exceed 30% of a tenants gross income. 

Here are some additional facts about Meadowbrook Place

- Peoria Housing Authority has no stake in the development
- Development team includes Southside office of Concern, Farnsworth Group, Inc for Architecture and Engineering, CORE Construction Services of Illinois for General Contracting, Robert Cottingham Property Management Company as Property Manager, Lightengale Group as Development Consultant. 
- S.O.O.C has not completed their application for development yet.

- Meadowbrook Place would consist of two buildings, totaling 63,820 Square ft. 

- Amenities would include an elevator, community laundry rooms, library, patio, playground area, secured bicycle parking

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