The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is giving workforce housing funding to build homes in a Superfund site in East Chicago. At least half of the homes will be sold to buyers making 50 percent or less than the area’s median income as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The rest will go to families making 80 percent or less.
Four of the six homes will be built on 4900 block of Alexander Avenue and two others on the 4900 block of Melville Avenue. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency targeted nearly 200 properties in that area for cleanup due to abnormally high levels of arsenic and lead in the soil.
Frank Rivera is the executive director for East Chicago’s Department of Redevelopment. He says the new homes will be a step towards revitalizing the area’s economy.
“I think this is going to create more stable and affordable and good quality housing in order for us to create a more economically stable community,” he says. “And that’s the key: it’s quality of life.”
But some residents displaced by contamination are concerned the project will leave them out again.
Akeeshea Daniels was born in the neighborhood near where the new homes will be built. She was relocated when it was discovered her home had well above EPA standards for lead. She says the new homes should be offered to former residents who want to return.
“Who are the people they’re trying to move in when the people that they put out should have first dibs on them?” Daniels says. “That’s just the way I feel.”
A Safe Haven, the Chicago non-profit picked to manage the workforce housing project, is supposed to also develop a Quality of Life plan for the neighborhood.