City of Centralia
With the effects of the collapse in the housing market still felt in neighborhoods across Illinois, IHDA’s recovery and revitalization programs give local leaders the tools they need to rebuild their communities. Recognizing that integrated solutions are needed to fully address the interconnected problems of foreclosure and blight, IHDA leveraged funds from the federal Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) program to create two programs that help local governments prevent future foreclosures by stabilizing property values, which creates housing demand.
This effort has sparked an economic revival in Centralia, a city of 13,000 located within four counties in southern Illinois. For Mayor Tom Ashby and City Manager Dan Ramey, IHDA’s Blight Reduction and 1stHomeIllinois programs have been at the center of their mission to rebuild their neighborhoods, create a foundation for a stronger economic future and restore Centralia’s reputation as a good place to live and work.
“We had a perception that Centralia was dirty. That it was doom and gloom,” Mayor Ashby said, adding that some neighboring communities considered the city unsafe because of the condition of some vacant properties. “We had to recreate the image of a positive Centralia.”
The city was awarded $665,000 from IHDA’s Blight Reduction Program in February 2016 and quickly went to work targeting 19 blighted homes for demolition. The empty lots can then be sold to neighbors, converted to parkland or improved with landscaping. The work, along with the city’s ongoing revitalization efforts, has improved property values and quality of life for the overall community, providing a much-needed boost to the local real estate market.
As home values stabilize, Ramey says younger households are more likely to remain in the community than they were in the past. IHDA’s 1stHomeIllinois program provides $7,500 in down payment assistance and has been a catalyst for the city as they encourage new buyers to put down roots and invest in their hometown. Since the program launched in August 2015, Centralia homebuyers have accessed $1.9 million in 1stHomeIllinois mortgage loans and down payment assistance, driving economic growth at a pace the city hasn’t seen in years.