Evansville secures $23 million in affordable housing, some neighbors worried

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The third time is a charm for Evansville in securing a $23 million affordable housing project expected to be built next year. Officials say it’s cashing in on years of work with the land bank, and three years of applications.

City officials say this 90-unit housing effort will make a dent in the need for subsidized homes, but some neighbors are worried about what could be coming to Jefferson Avenue.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” said Tricia Handley who has lived in Tepe Park for 20 years. She takes pride in her street, she says, and so do many of her neighbors. “Everybody more or less pitches in.”

Looking next door and across the street at empty lots, she wonders about the company that may soon occupy it. “I don’t want it to go downhill since we’ve worked so hard to keep this community, this area, going good,” Handley said.

According to Kelley Coures, Director of Metropolitan Development, a 30-unit apartment is planned in Tepe Park, and 30 houses will fill in spots down the block. Another 30 townhomes are planned for the lot on Canal Street in Old Erie.

Coures says 12 units will be reserved for people with auditory, visual, or learning disabilities.

The project is empowered by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and federal tax credits. The program incentivizes private developers and investors to build affordable housing.

Coures says it subsidizes construction, so a home buyer can pay a smaller price, or a tenant pays a lower monthly rent, because the property cost less to build.

“We need new property taxes, and an empty lot doesn’t generate much property tax, but a new house built there will,” Coures said, looking at long-term benefits.

It doesn’t matter where you go, money can’t grow on trees, so Coures is glad to use any cash the government is willing to spend. “These programs that end up with home ownership are very valuable,” he said.

Numbers from Aurora show the city needs somewhere between 1,400 and 4,400 new homes for people in Vanderburgh County.

United Way data from 2016 shows almost 3,200 people in Vanderburgh County are classified by the government as “working poor” or below.

Still, some neighbors like Handley fear the reputation of subsidized housing.

“That’s a shame, because the only way a poor family in America in 2018 will ever be able to build equity is through home ownership,” Coures contested.

Tepe Park has one of the highest poverty rates in the city, according to Aurora, and these 90 new units won’t be the first in the area, Coures said.

He believes new homes will go a long way to decreasing crime, too, which is something most on the block can get behind.

“I understand the progress on helping the community grow for families that do need help,” Handley said.

Coures expects construction to start in the spring.

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This story was originally published on November 16, 2018

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