June 30, 2005

Community ceremony marks start of housing project

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A broad-based coalition that includes Southern Illinois University Carbondale, various governmental agencies, community organizations and private businesses on Wednesday (June 29) unveiled a project that will make quality affordable homes available to low- and moderate-income Carbondale residents.

Through the Carbondale Home Ownership Project, 10 energy-efficient homes will be built on a 1.3-acre lot on North Robert A. Stalls Avenue on the city’s north side. Construction of the single-family homes – the first new such construction in that area of Carbondale in 30 years – will begin in September. Project organizers expect owners will move into the 1,240-square-foot homes next spring.

Chief sponsors of the project are the Western Egyptian Economic Opportunity Council, a community action agency based in Steeleville, Attucks Community Services, Inc., in Carbondale; and the Springfield-based Illinois Community Action Development Corp., which works to provide affordable housing to rural Illinois residents.

Western Egyptian plans to pre-sell the homes for approximately $75,000 each. The goal is to provide home ownership opportunities to working families earning between $22,000 and $35,000 annually. Maximum annual income for a family of four will be $66,700. Prospective owners, who will need to make a $1,000 down payment, will receive homebuyer training, and asset management and credit counseling.

SIUC offices that are participating in the project, including Black American Studies, Architecture and Interior Design, and the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, and the Office of Economic and Regional Development. The center received a three-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2002 to create a Community Outreach Partnership Center.

A joint effort with the city of Carbondale and Attucks Community Services, Inc., the center focuses on improving housing, economic and business development, health, education and neighborhood revitalization in north Carbondale. The office served as a catalyst in bringing the various partners together for this project.

“Outreach and contributing to improvements in our region’s communities are critical parts of our mission, and I am pleased the University is able to help in this home ownership and community revitalization effort,” Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said. “As these home are built, we expect new opportunities for local residents to emerge in construction and planning processes.”

Funding for the nearly $1.2 million project comes from several sources, including: $649,000 from South Pointe Bank; $50,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board; and $250,000 from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The City of Carbondale will provide $50,000 worth of infrastructure site improvements. In addition, approval is pending for a $100,000 loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to help finance other infrastructure work at the site.

The Rural Development office is guaranteeing the loans South Pointe Bank is making to the new homeowners. That reduces the risk to the bank and helps homebuyers secure affordable loan terms and avoid monthly mortgage insurance payments.

Don Harris, housing director for the Illinois Community Action Development Corp., said the project will expand opportunity for home ownership to many families in north Carbondale.

“They’ll be paying about $550 a month for everything (mortgage, insurance, everything) and they’ll be getting a brand new house,” he said. “These homes will come with the basic appliances, one-and-a-half baths, and for someone making under $40,000 a year, it’s almost impossible to find a newly constructed home like these.”

Also involved in the project are: Eggemeyer Associates Architects, Inc., Gillespie Property Management, Jackson County Housing Authority, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living.

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.