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7/11/2018 7:20:00 PM
Valparaiso residents seek strategy to bring more affordable housing to city

Joyce Russell, Times of Northwest Indiana

VALPARAISO — Some 50 people gathered at a local church Tuesday night to discuss strategies on how to address the lack of affordable housing in the city.

The issue isn't new, Heath Carter, chair of the city Human Relations Council, told the group. A paper was published more than a decade ago by some of his collegues at Valparaiso University.

"They said if it is not addressed, it will come to a head," he told the people gathered at Living Hope Community Church. 

That was followed by the Envision Valparaiso 2030 Plan in 2013, to be followed by the ValpoNEXT plan a few years later, only to be followed by the Altogether Valpo group. All, said Carter, addressed the issue of affordable housing.

Yet, he added, nothing has been done.

Most recently about 30 members of the local clergy presented a letter to the Valparaiso City Council, asking, again, that the issue be addressed, said Carter.

John Albers, executive director of the Lutheran School Corporation of Indiana, said he has been passionate about the issue for decades.

"We need to expand the persons included in affordable housing," said Albers, adding affordable housing is most often associated with low-income housing.

"In Valparaiso, that is not going to sell," Albers said.

The groups needing to be included are the first time earners, those who are part of the ALICE report which addressed wage earners who don't make enough to live in the city and "those who work for us in the public and private sectors," Albers said. 

"If someone can empty my trash, they should be able to live in this community," he said, adding what affordable housing is available is quickly disappearing as property values are being driven up.

Albers said those as passionate as he have to go to city officials and demand they put together some sort of plan, much like they did when revitalizing the city's downtown.

"We need to convince the city leaders of the outcome we want," he said, adding if yet another strategic plan is proposed, it will only delay moving forward again.

Paul Schreiner of Project Neighbors, said that while there needs to be continued pressure on government officials and advised those attending to either show up at council members or "elect different people," those wanting to do something should take the matter into their own hands.

"I don't like waiting for city government for a solution," he said, encouraging people to join together to help build affordable homes in the community.

Elias Crim, one of the organizers of Tuesday's event billed as a "Community Conversation on Affordable Housing," said the idea was to motivate people to address the issue and to provide direct information on how they can take action themselves, either through a volunteer build, lobbying city government or helping organizations already involved in the housing issue.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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