State Approves Preliminary Taft Homes Redevelopment Plans

Feb 4, 2020

The Peoria Housing Authority got some good news in its ongoing Taft Homes redevelopment project.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority informed the PHA last Friday its preliminary project application was approved.

"We have at least passed the initial screening of what the project is scheduled to look like, and what we're seeking to do, and kind of the funds that we're seeking to have," said Peoria Housing Authority CEO Jackie Newman on Monday.

It's a necessary step in applying for a nine percent tax credit the PHA hopes to leverage to ultimately embark on demolishing the existing 1950s public housing stock at Taft and replacing them with modern buildings. Applications for those credits are due next month. Newman said she hopes to learn if the PHA won the credits by summer.

"That's a long time coming," said PHA board chairman Carl Cannon. "You have to get into the door to be able to compete. We haven't been able to get in the door."

As WCBU first reported last July, the PHA is partnering with Kenosha, Wisc.-based Bear Development to convert the Taft Homes to Section 8 housing through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Residents would continue to pay a base 30 percent of their income to live there.

The PHA is working with South Carolina-based public housing consultant Cindi Herrera to square away the first two phases of the redevelopment project with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this month.

Phase 1 involves moving the occupants of 16 Taft Homes units to existing Access Peoria duplexes scattered throughout the East Bluff. That project had a projected net operating income of just over $16,000 in year 1, according to PHA submissions to HUD obtained via FOIA. 

That process has run into various stumbling blocks. Documents obtained by WCBU via FOIA showed 15 of those 16 promised Access Peoria units were already occupied. In September, HUD rejected the PHA's menu of options for those residents, which included temporarily moving to another Taft unit until an Access Peoria duplex became available, opting to permanently move to another Taft unit, or obtaining a tenant-based voucher to move elsewhere.

Phase 2 would relocate the residents of 16 units to newly constructed scattered housing in the East Bluff through the Peoria Opportunities Foundation, at a cost of $10.9 million. The funding would come from a combination of tax credits, grants, an IHDA loan, and TIF funds, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Rents would stay the same for residents moved in both initial phases. 

At least another 140 units would be removed and replaced by RAD housing in a later phase of development. It's unclear how the remaining 44 units would be replaced. The timeline for this phase of the project is not yet set in stone. 

The Peoria Housing Authority has submitted its financing plan to federal regulators after receiving an extension on filing paperwork. HUD currently anticipates Phase 1 closing on Feb. 16. Phase 2's current expected closing date is March 15. Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) closing dates will then be set. 

Newman said rounding up the tax credits needed to proceed is the first step. 

"We'll use this year to ensure we're leveraging those funds while simultaneously moving forward with construction, putting out RFP's, RFQ's, all of those sorts of things that you need to finish putting a construction team together to do the work," she said. 

The Peoria Housing Authority will give a presentation on its progress to the Peoria City Council and ask for its support on Feb. 11.