Helping Hands plans more permanent supportive housing | News

Click to enlarge

PHOTO by Dean Olsen

Helping Hands received funding from the Illinois Housing Development Authority for an apartment complex on Park Street to provide 22 permanent supportive housing units. A single-family rental home currently occupies the property, which has been rezoned to allow for multi-family development, despite objections from neighbors.

About 80 landlords who unsuccessfully tried to block a 2021 Springfield zoning change for a proposed 24-unit apartment complex are only now learning that the tenants would be people who were homeless and need what the this is called permanent supportive housing.

Gail Van Den Bossche, who lives around the corner from the proposed Park Street Apartments site at 3526 S. Park Ave., on the west side of town, said she was surprised that Windsor Homes owner and president Mike Niehaus modified its initial construction plans at the market rate. , private apartments.

Since Niehaus received approval from the Springfield City Council for the zoning change in September, plans for the complex have changed so that Niehaus’ Windsor Homes company will be the general contractor and Helping Hands of Springfield will be the owner.

The arrangement was outlined in a funding plan announced Jan. 26 by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, a quasi-state agency.

“I’m really shocked by this,” said Van Den Bossche, a state employee who has lived in the neighborhood since 2005. She said she learned of the change in plans from a Illinois Time journalist.

“If this comes to fruition, I just hope Helping Hands makes it a success for the tenants as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” she said.

Helping Hands, 1023 E. Washington St., operates an emergency homeless shelter, permanent supportive housing, and other programs for homeless people.

Helping Hands officials did not want to talk to Illinois Time or answer questions about the project beyond what the nonprofit revealed in a Jan. 27 press release.

But Helping Hands officials have said in the past that supportive housing allows tenants to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent; Helping Hands, which already operates 24 supportive housing units in Sangamon County, covers the remaining rent and sometimes utilities.

The non-profit organization also provides social workers who regularly visit tenants, helping them with their finances, finding employment, and dealing with mental health and addictions issues that may have contributed to their homelessness. .

According to the Helping Hands press release, Park Street Apartments, sponsored by Helping Hands in partnership with Windsor Homes, “is still in the exploration phase” despite IHDA’s announcement that funding has been granted.

It’s unclear what aspects of the project need to be finalized, although Niehaus said a final contract between Windsor Homes and Helping Hands has yet to be signed.

The Helping Hands release says the apartment complex, consisting of three two-story buildings, would increase the number of permanent supportive housing units in the community by 22 units and “emphasize the health and stability of the housing for seniors and veterans with disabilities and chronic homelessness”. An additional unit would be built for the resort manager, and there would be a “community space” on the first floor of one of the buildings. The manager’s unit and community space were not part of the original plan when the City officials approved the project last year.

It remains to be determined what would happen to a single-family rental home on the property immediately west of the proposed complex, Niehaus said.

Based on IHDA documents, the project would be funded by nearly $6 million in federal and state government funds and Helping Hands, all intended to expand permanent supportive housing in the community. .

Of the total, $500,000 is believed to come from the IHDA trust fund, which an IHDA spokesperson said may not need to be repaid. Another $4.7 million would come from a grant from IHDA and $800,000 would come from Helping Hands, which receives most of its annual operating revenue from the state government.

Plans call for Niehaus, owner of the property, to receive $180,000 for acquiring the land; $4.34 million, or $189,000 per unit, would be spent to build the 22 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The proposed expenses would also include $621,586 for Windsor Homes development costs, $124,000 for reserves and $534,000 for expenses such as legal and architectural fees, according to the IHDA.

Niehaus said he considered having the site rezoned for a private apartment complex nine years ago, but withdrew the proposal when it emerged the city council would refuse it.

He said nothing about the proposed partnership with Helping Hands that was mentioned during city council or zoning commission meetings in 2021, as he planned to build a private apartment complex until Helping Hands the approach once the zoning change has been obtained.

Van Den Bossche said she and other neighbors are still upset that city officials dismissed concerns about increased road safety issues the complex could bring to the neighborhood along and near Park Avenue. .

The south end of Park Avenue ends just south of the site, she said, and the neighborhood is already dealing with drivers using Shiloh Drive and West Center Street – two east-west routes – to travel between MacArthur Boulevard and apartments along Seven Pines Road. and Chatham Road.

There are no sidewalks, curbs or gutters along Park Avenue, and lighting is poor, Van Den Bossche said. There is a two-story, eight-unit apartment complex immediately north of the Park Street Apartments site.

Van Den Bossche said it’s unclear if the traffic issues originally aired by neighbors will hold if the tenants are formerly homeless people who may not be able to afford a home. car.

But social workers would likely come to the site, she said. At night, resort tenants would have to use a dark street with no sidewalks and they would be half a mile from the nearest city bus stop, she said.

“As far as security issues go, that’s always an issue,” Van Den Bossche said.

Springfield resident Tom Shafer, a former neighborhood resident who spoke to council on behalf of neighbors opposed to the project in September, learned of the new plans for the complex from Illinois Time but said he had heard rumors of the change.

Residents in the vicinity of the proposed site reacted to the rumors with “barely contained anger and disbelief”, he said. The resort’s location isn’t ideal for people without a car, Shafer said.

The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change, and the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-4 on August 18 to recommend City Council approval of the change , despite a petition opposing the project signed by about 80 neighborhood residents. residents.

Niehaus received zoning approval from city council on September 21 to change the zoning from single-family to multi-family to allow for the Park Street Apartments project.

Niehaus told council members at the meeting that the complex would cause less than a 1% increase in traffic in the neighborhood.

The council vote was 8 to 2 in favor of the change, with ward alderman Joe McMenamin of Ward 7 voting “no” with Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory.

McMenamin said he opposed the rezoning because of the lack of nearby public transportation, a road he considered unsafe, and a lack of sidewalks in a neighborhood with few homes in the city and d others in the unincorporated township of Woodside.

The city council voted a few weeks later to annex the apartment complex property to the city and require the owner to pay for the addition of a lamp post.

Dean Olsen is senior writer for Illinois Times.

He can be reached at [email protected].

Comments are closed.