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For sale – as soon as snag worked out

Public housing apartments vacant for years

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
The building located at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue in Dixon is owned by the Lee County Housing Authority and has been vacant for at least 5 years.

DIXON – The Lee County Housing Authority has a four-unit apartment complex in west Dixon. It mows the lawn and takes care of the property, but no cars are parked outside.

That’s because no one has lived in the complex for at least 5 years. Other than the occasional police exercise in the complex, it is vacant. 

Built in 1952, the complex contains two two-bedroom and two four-bedroom apartments. 

“We don’t really have a need for the four-bedrooms like we used to,” said Tom Myers, the authority’s executive director. “Families aren’t as big as they used to be.”

Also, he said, the authority has had plenty of vacancies, so it doesn’t need the complex at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue, he said. 

The authority is working to sell the two-story apartment complex, but hit a legal snag. The problem is related to bonds that Lee County and some other authorities took out a few years ago, Myers said. 

The local authority hopes to put up the apartments for sale in the next couple of years, Myers said. 

As it is, the authority has 10 vacancies, up from three in July, Myers said. 

“In July and August, we had a bunch of people who moved out. I’m not sure why. Their apartments are being rehabbed,” he said. 

In 2011, the authority reported that about 40 of its 208 units were empty. But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expressed its concern with so many vacancies. Since, the local agency has steadily reduced its vacancies.  

Whiteside County Housing Authority, by contrast, typically has a waiting list. 

Now, 72 people are waiting for one-bedroom units in Whiteside County’s public housing, 39 for two-bedrooms, 30 for three-bedrooms and seven for four-bedrooms. The Whiteside County authority has no unused properties.

Why the difference between the housing authorities?

One of the big reasons is that the Whiteside County authority picks up much of the cost of its tenants’ electric bills, while electric accounts in the Lee County authority are in their tenants’ names. If potential tenants owe a sizable debt to ComEd, then the Lee County authority rejects their applications because their electric accounts can’t be in their names. But Myers said his agency tries to find financial help for them. 

To learn more

The Lee County Housing Authority office is at 1000 Washington St. Call 815-284-2759 for rental and other information.

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