How St. Charles is offering help with property repair costs
Liz Eakins falls into the category of knowing what truly helps people whose incomes for any number of reasons don't always measure up when critical needs arise.
She saw it during her 13 years as the executive director of the Lazarus House shelter in St. Charles and serving on the St. Charles Housing Commission since 2009 -- and currently as its chairperson.
As such, she knows maintaining a home on a limited income is difficult during good times, let alone during a pandemic and rising inflation.
Eakins also knows it's rather difficult to get the word out that money is available to help those in need for home repairs in St. Charles.
The Home Rehab and Accessibility Loan Program has been created through the St. Charles Housing Commission to help the St. Charles City Council receive information about affordable housing within the city limits and how best to administer the city's Housing Trust Fund.
"The task of getting people to know about the program is challenging," said Eakins, who oversaw Lazarus House operations from 2005 to her retirement in 2018. "Not many folks take advantage of the many ways the city can assist those on limited or moderate incomes to maintain their homes.
"For those who have reached retirement age, in particular, it can be challenging to continue to maintain a home," Eakins said. "However, this is not limited to just retirement households."
As much as $10,000 is available through a zero interest, deferred payment loan for several maintenance and repair items, in addition to adaptation costs for physically disabled persons, Eakins noted. In addition, she said, Kane County also can assist with an additional $20,000 for these same expenses.
Criteria centers on property in the St. Charles city limits being owner occupied; household income cannot exceed 80 percent of the area median income (currently $59,650 for a two-person household, or $74,500 for a four-person household); and home value cannot exceed $356,362.
This help for residents doesn't occur through magic. It has to come through levels of city government and dedicated people helping to make it happen.
"St. Charles for many years has been viewed as a leader and trailblazer when it comes to affordable housing efforts," said city planner Ellen Johnson. "St. Charles is one of only a handful of Illinois municipalities that has appointed a housing commission to advise the city council on affordable housing matters."
In addition, the city has adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance, requiring developers to provide affordable housing in new developments. As such, the city most recently saw 75 affordable housing units incorporated into the Prairie Centre project, Johnson said of the Shodeen Group development on Lincoln Highway, south of Prairie Street, on the former St. Charles Mall property.
Affordable housing in St. Charles is defined as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household's gross annual income for a family earning 80 percent of the area median income for owner-occupied housing, and 60 percent for rental housing.
St. Charles is partnering with Community Contacts Inc. to administer the commission and Kane County portions of funding for the maintenance and rehab program.
Inquiries can start with the Community Contacts website or by calling (847) 697-8800. If qualified, the homeowner can submit an application for review.
The city and county also team up to assist qualified homebuyers through the First-Time Homebuyer Loan Program. Those interested in that program can send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org, and staff at the Kane County Office of Community Reinvestment will explain the process.
"The ultimate goal of these programs is to provide access to, and maintenance of the city's affordable housing stock," Eakins said.
Putting pep in design
Since opening last October, The Pep Line and Peppeard Design in downtown St. Charles are garnering attention from those looking for interior design ideas.
It doesn't hurt any of these types of stores that many people are addicted to watching interior design programs on HGTV these days.
So owner Shannon Peppeard made a good move in setting up her businesses in the Collins House at 201 Cedar Ave., bringing a modern design studio into a house built in 1836 for a fellow named Thomas Collins, who was a tailor in St. Charles. Local historians also note this house was a possible stopping point for the Underground Railroad.
Peppeard had a pop-up shop in the Trend & Relic store on the city's east side prior to putting The Pep Line on the main floor, basement and back cottage of the Collins House and her interior design studio, Peppeard Design, upstairs.
Another major temptation
Facebook and other social media channels can be fun for sharing things about family and friends, but they also can tempt your biggest weaknesses.
For me, that would be promoting any type of bakery sweets that put chocolate in the forefront.
When a store, restaurant or bakery uses social media to boast of a new product or new item on the menu, I suppose it can be either good or bad for you -- depending on what you should or shouldn't be eating.
A case in point recently unfolded when Hahn's Bakery in Geneva posted an item about a new product -- a Double Dutch Chocolate Crumb Cake. Of course, it included a photo of this temptation, one that most assuredly will lure me in like Yogi Bear at a picnic.
In my world, when chocolate is part of the equation, the notion of what is good or bad for you kind of goes out the window.
It's all Saturday now
The dreams of retirement can often be lofty. Visions of visiting Hawaii, Napa Valley, the Grand Canyon, Mackinac Island and other U.S. favorites come to mind, along with traveling to Europe or any other number of foreign lands.
With COVID and airline chaos, those dreams get a shrug of the shoulders from me. As I am closing in on two months of retirement, visions of grand travels never surface.
For now, I'm greatly enjoying the simpler pleasures of not having to work. The bigger stuff, hopefully, may come later.
One example of the simple pleasures is losing track of what day it is. I was told this would happen. Actually, it's not possible to lose track when the day and date is on your phone, watch, computer or TV screen, not to mention on regular printed calendars, which I prefer.
More importantly, every day now seems more like a Saturday than a grinder like a Monday full of meetings and poring over a tsunami of emails.
Here's another extremely pleasant new twist. I can take a shower in the morning without rushing to get out to see how many work-related phone, text or emails messages came during that time.
So, we're starting with these nice changes during retirement -- and finding it quite appealing. We'll let the bigger stuff come later.