BLOOMINGTON — As the president of the board of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project, Deborah Halperin believes that home improvements and home ownership have an important ripple effect.
“When you improve one home, you improve the block, and when you improve the block, you improve the neighborhood,” Halperin said Monday during a news conference at Bloomington’s Friendship Park to highlight the positive outcomes of the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative.
Thirteen homes were rehabilitated, 20 more home repairs were finished and three new homes were built, all thanks to a $1.5 million grant as part of the Illinois Attorney General’s National Foreclosure Settlement program.
Mid Central Community Action (MCCA), the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) and Habitat for Humanity of McLean County joined together to engage residents, community leaders and corporate partners in a safety and vitality effort, said MCCA Executive Director Deborah White.
“Since this effort was bigger than any one of us, we formed the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative,” she said. “Our goals were for every family in our target area to live in safe and affordable housing, to be financially stable, and to be engaged in the community.”
In all, 13 homes were acquired by MCCA through the grant and then rehabilitated for resale. Of those, seven have already been sold, for an average price of $80,971. Six others, including the former Jefferson Street Community House at 828 W. Jefferson St., remain available for sale.
The Community House was converted into a place where west-side residents and Bloomington police could build stronger community relations. In the past two years since it opened, the house has hosted 21 events, drawing more than 630 attendees.
Through an agreement, the police department leased the property for $1 per month after it opened in June 2017. Last month, officials announced it would close.
Prior to it opening, some neighborhood residents protested the police presence at the house, but the feedback from residents since it opened has been mostly positive, White said.
The $1.5 million spent on the project has already benefited the community, officials said.
“This grant brought $1.5 million into the neighborhood and that is a huge investment and we are very grateful, but, really, it’s just a good start,” Halperin said.
“This neighborhood deserves investment," she added. "We have amazing families. We have schools with a great sense of community. We have neighbors that care. This is a great place that gets even better when we are able to bring in dollars that make a difference in the lives of west-siders.
"We will always look for opportunities to tell our stories and let people know that this neighborhood is historic and it cannot be left in the past.”
Jim Walters, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, said his organization has enjoyed cooperating with the other partners.
“We completed three builds with this and each one, as always, is a blessing and a challenge,” he said. “We have enjoyed partnering with the MCCA and the WBRP and know that our working relationship with them will continue long after this grant is through.”
In addition to housing improvements, financial coaching and support was also available for those who received help on their home repairs, White said.
“Between May 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019, a total of 15 Bloomington residents increased their net monthly income by an average $486 per month, 12 increased their savings by an average of $414 and 11 decreased their debt by an average of $1,058. Also, 10 increased their credit score by an average of 51 points.”