City planning to conduct survey of housing options

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EFFINGHAM — The city of Effingham has entered into a preliminary agreement with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to conduct a series of surveys of housing needs in the area.

The Effingham City Council on Sept. 21 took the first step toward an arrangement with IHDA that would allow for the group to form a Community Needs Assessment Survey and a Housing Stock Survey, followed by a series of meetings with assorted stakeholders and the community at large. The surveys will be completed by the summer of 2022.

According to an IHDA spokesperson, the agreement itself is not finalized, as the city has yet to name community ambassadors for the project and sign the official “scope of work.”

The goals for the project are to examine what needs there are for housing in Effingham and coordinating with government agencies to plan and implement future housing initiatives. The hope is that the finalized project will help attract more businesses and more workers to Effingham, providing a boost to the economy.

Todd Hull, the city’s economic development coordinator, said housing remains a key sticking point for the community, as expanding businesses require more workers in order for their businesses to be successful.

“With the need for workers, the need for housing goes along with that,” Hull said. “If you have the housing available for those workers, that will help bring them into the community to take the jobs that are available here. It goes hand in hand with that and both of those topics (jobs and housing) have been huge over the last few years.”

IHDA and the city began negotiations in June and the city has seen the work that IHDA has done with other communities across the state, hoping they could provide something similar for Effingham.

“It was another tool (for us) that we wanted to reach out to and use here in the city of Effingham,” Hull said. “Maybe (it will) take us in the correct direction to bring about more housing here in the community and ultimately bring in more people to work.”

For people who need serious help finding a home due to health concerns, age or economic status, it can be quite difficult to find housing. The Effingham County Housing Authority has a waiting list for its facilities.

“I’ve been here 24 years and we’ve always had a waiting list,” said Gina Hardiek, the agency’s executive director. “I can’t tell you why. We have a lot of single moms (and) a lot of people who are disabled. There’s a lot of reasons why we stay full, (but) I can’t pinpoint one reason. Everybody has a situation.”

She’s a big supporter of more affordable housing in Effingham, whether it is run by a government agency or privately owned. Rent for housing in Effingham may not be affordable for some, even if they come here for work and a new opportunity.

“I feel the rent in Effingham is pretty steep, to be honest with you,” Hardiek said. “If you go to a smaller town, the rent is not going to be as high as it is in Effingham. Right now, I feel like you have these people that are working hard to the ultimate goal, (which is) to be a homeowner. For them to save money to be able to purchase a home, it’s hard.”

Hull believes the survey, once the agreement is finalized and put into effect, could show the need for apartments, single-family housing or any other kind of housing that is currently lacking in Effingham.

“Once all the information is gathered, I think that will help trying to get (a) direction on what kind of housing needs to be developed here,” Hull said. “There are quite a few apartment buildings going up, which is needed. It may give some direction for the contractors and some direction for the city on how to push certain housing forward.”