Lately, it seems like not a month goes by without the Peoria area being mentioned in national articles and rankings as a truly affordable housing market. Whether it is grabbing one of the top spots in US News and World Reports “Best Places to Live” or being featured in CBS Nightly News or New York Times because of the tremendous work of Angie Ostaszewski shining a light on our community, people are starting to take notice of our little corner of the Midwest. Our low cost of living (and doing business) is one of the primary reasons our new friend Alexandre Chequim picked Peoria as the location of the first American office of his Brazilian AgTech company, DigiFarmz. And I marvel at our affordability all the time. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and have a brother that lives in San Jose, two places with some of the highest housing prices in the country. I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, where it felt like every other house went from at least a million dollars.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have here in Greater Peoria. An affordable housing climate allows families to keep more of what they earn, helps boost the local economy through more discretionary spending, and gives us an advantage when it comes to economic development. A lower cost of housing equals a lower cost of business since companies do not need to pay exorbitant salaries just so that people can afford one-bedroom apartments. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just this week, our friends at Veloxity Labs shared on LinkedIn that Peoria’s affordability was a key driver of their decision to locate in Peoria Next. The Choose Greater Peoria campaign is important not only because it aims to tell the story of Peoria to the world but also because it hopes to tell the story of Peoria to Peoria.
But even one of the country’s most affordable housing markets is not always affordable to everyone, and we must always be working to ensure that all our citizens have a place to call home. I was pleased to hear the news last week that two Peoria organizations were awarded low income housing tax credits for two critical projects. Peoria Opportunities Foundation will construct 47 rental units on Peoria’s south side, while Phoenix Community Development Services will transform the former home of Methodist College into a 55-room housing complex for homeless families. Both projects fill a gap that exists in every American housing market, even one of the most affordable.
Maybe it seems odd to you that an economic development organization is talking about housing. Not really. This is a fundamental economic development issue. Housing equals stability, and stability equals a better chance for prosperity. People cannot thrive, either personally or professionally, if they don’t have a place they can call home. Bouncing from couch to couch, shelter to shelter, or temporary situation to temporary situation is not a formula for success. That’s why we included housing in our most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. Under the “Quality of Place” goal, we articulated a number of tactics under the strategy to “ensure residents have quality, income-appropriate housing choices.” That’s why we applaud our partners in the social services sector for helping keep Greater Peoria affordable for all of us