Water's Edge Housing development, residents moving in

Brock A. Stein | 10/26/2017, 8:59 a.m.
The public can catch a glimpse of the new Water’s Edge affordable housing subdivision when the Housing Authority of Joliet ...
The Housing Authority of Joliet will unveil its latest community when it hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Water's Edge this week. TTW

The public can catch a glimpse of the new Water’s Edge affordable housing subdivision when the Housing Authority of Joliet (HAJ) hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 4-6 p.m., 334 Water St. in Joliet.

Housing Authority director Michael Simelton said that the project, which replaces 122 units at the former Des Plaines Gardens public housing complex with 68 new homes, has been under construction since last September. The project is expected to create a less dense complex of homes and will also include park space for residents.

The public housing development that would eventually come to be known as the Des Plaines Gardens public housing units were developed between 1954 and 1966 as three separate complexes that would eventually be merged according to a history from the HAJ website.

As time passed the units fell into disrepair and were eventually determined to be “functionally obsolete” according to HAJ documents with repair and update needs exceeding the cost to demolish and build new facilities.

In 2015, HAJ received approval from the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to proceed with a plan to raze the site and build new homes. Former residents of the 122 unit-complex were given housing vouchers and will be given an opportunity to move in to one of the new homes at the re-named Water’s Edge complex.

“As a condition of relocating from the property, all households that received a housing choice voucher are allowed the first right of refusal to return to the redeveloped property and to participate in activities that will lead to eventual homeownership,” reads a statement from the HAJ website.

Simelton said that the new homes include amenities not found in the old units including 1-car garages, central air, appliances like stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers as well as upgraded finishes like granite counters and solid wood cabinets.

Homes will be available for residents who are disabled, elderly as well as working families.

Those who qualify will pay rents that range from $300 to $1000. Those rent levels are determined by Area Median Incomes (AMI) said Simelton which according to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website defines as “income for the median — or middle — household in a region.” Families can qualify dependent on their AMI’s that reach the 30%, 50% and 60% income levels.

The new homes he said were “designed to move families toward more self-sufficiency” with a homeownership component at the end of a 15-year compliance period. Residents can qualify for a credit of up to $30,000 off the purchase price by earning “good stewardship” credit during that 15-year residency in one of the homes he said.

“So if they maintain it during those 15 years they can earn good stewardship credit and they have the option to buy it,” said Simelton.

The director said that the HAJ hopes that the new home site will help “stimulate redevelopment” in the nearby Joliet neighborhood whose location was chosen for its walking distance proximity to public transit including Pace and Metra.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to redevelop that area,” said Simelton who noted that he hopes the project will also spur a movement to create “affordable housing not only in Joliet but throughout Will County.”

Water’s Edge is the third phase of the HAJ’s plans to provide more affordable housing developments in Joliet, said Simelton.

The first two, at the Liberty Meadows development included 116 units and if all goes well there are 15 more acres for more future homes at the Liberty Meadows site which is near the corner of Briggs and Rosalind Streets in Joliet he said.

The HAJ first purchased 64 acres of land at the Briggs/Rosalind location in 2006 where it has since developed 36 duplex units and 38 single family homes in phase 1 and 4 duplex units and 38 single family homes in phase 2 on just over 45 acres combined between the two phases.