The definition of “affordable housing” is based on being at most thirty percent of one’s income. Looking at the average price of housing in Edwardsville, it is often not affordable for many people with the average Edwardsville housing price being $303,662, as reported by the Intelligencer in an interview with the city planner.
John Harvey with the Edwardsville Community Housing Alliance said he thinks the lack of affordable housing in the area has been a problem for some time due to the desire for higher-end housing.
“What happens in a gentrifying market like we have in Edwardsville is that there’s a lot of incentive for very successful developers, in conjunction with realtors, bankers and construction firms … because Edwardsville is a desirable place to live for them to create housing at the upper end because they make more money,” Harvey said.
The prices in Edwardsville are increasing, and Harvey said the housing prices are no longer sustainable.
“Anything close to half of one’s income that one pays on housing is not affordable — it’s not sustainable,” Harvey said.
Harvey said one of the reasons the Edwardsville Community Housing Alliance exists is to fight for a more sustainable form of housing for the public.
“We feel like there’s nobody voicing the difficulties that people with limited wages experience. First and foremost we want to do that and point out that things aren’t great all over Edwardsville, that it doesn’t work for a lot of people, that we say we think hard work and keeping your nose clean are important, [but] there’s a lot of people doing that and are struggling,” Harvey said.
Ward 1 Alderman Chris Farrar said he has been supportive of low-income housing in Hillsboro, Illinois, and wants to find a way to incentivize realtors and developers to build affordable housing in the area.
“We need to figure out how to incentivize developers to build low-income units using other partners that will help keep people living in our communities anywhere from teachers, waitresses, laborers and those kinds of things, where they can live in our community and enjoy the amenities of our community that they work in. I think that really builds
community,” Farrar said.
Because of the variety of different income levels in Edwardsville, Harvey said he thinks people should try to be more aware of how important people with lower income are.
“If we want to continue to pay lip service to how valuable we feel essential workers are, and how thankful we are that people are willing to work in support of the rest of us, then I feel like [we should] acknowledge that the community that we have with a balance of people is important. And we do not want to drive out people simply because they work these professions that have limited wages,” Harvey said.
Farrar said he believes one of the largest long-term issues with housing costs is how high the price of land is.
“People know how expensive land is, they know that, ‘If I sell it to you, you’ll turn around and you’ll probably put as many lots as you can on it and try to maximize your profits.’ And then you have to deal with zoning laws. There’s a lot of regulation that goes into it with developers. If you can, streamline that process for them or somehow incentivize them in such a way that they can decrease the cost to make it more affordable,” Farrar said.
Emily Fultz, the Edwardsville City Planner, said she did a study about affordability and income in Edwardsville, but believes a demand analysis should be the next step for determining how much of a need for affordable housing there is.
“After we get a handle on what the demand for affordable housing is, we’ll meet with elected officials, our city council. We’ll probably discuss this at a subcommittee meeting and even the city’s plan commission. At that point we’ll set goals for what we need to achieve related to affordable housing and then we’ll embark on an affordable housing plan to help us achieve those goals,” Fultz said.