Family ready to make dream of home a reality in Hoopeston

HOOPESTON – On Monday, Jeff and Kristen Compton and their four boys will get the keys to their new two-story, three-bedroom house – a dream that has not been within the family's reach until now.

"We are happy. We are excited," said Kristen Compton, who is so anxious that she's had most of their belongings, except for the kitchen, packed for about two months. That's when she and her husband learned that their application was accepted for the Prairie Meadows Homes project in Hoopeston.

A stay-at-home mom who's raising their four boys and going to school while her husband works full-time in Danville, Kristen Compton said they have always lived in rented apartments and have not had the financial means to buy a house until this program came along.

Compton expressed her thanks Tuesday afternoon during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Prairie Meadows, a joint project of the East Central Illinois Action Agency, based in Danville, the statewide Illinois Community Action Development Corporation and the city of Hoopeston. State and local officials gathered to celebrate the finish of construction and, after the ceremony, toured some of the houses.

The project mission is to provide affordable, quality housing to working families and seniors.

Prairie Meadows is a 10-acre site containing 25 newly-built houses, surrounding a 1-acre park, for low- and moderate-income senior citizens and families who will lease their homes and, after 10 years, will have the opportunity to buy them through lease-to-purchase agreements. It's just south of Illinois 9 on Hoopeston's south side near Hoopeston Area High School.

Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the city of Hoopeston, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois state donation tax credits.

Construction on the houses began in the spring and finished this fall. The homes are two to three bedrooms, range in size from 1,050 to 1,350 square feet and are energy-efficient.

Rents range generally between $220 and $500 a month for the tenants, who must meet income guidelines that range from about $35,160 a year for a family of five down to $8,800 a year for a single person. The project received $2.3 million in federal stimulus dollars through the Illinois Housing Development Authority; about $400,000 from Hoopeston; a $100,500 energy-efficiency grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; $170,000 in state tax credits; and a $2 million loan from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

The community action agency will own the development of houses, which will remain rental units until the tax credits expire, and then the action agency will offer the current tenants an option to buy. If they don't, each house will be marketed for sale.

The project came to Hoopeston because, according to city officials, there was a need for more affordable housing opportunities in the city. That need was identified through a community survey.

Kristen Compton said their four boys – Dylan, 12, Hunter, 7, Leland, 4, and Levi, 2 – are most looking forward to playing in a yard of their own, which will also be near the park. Currently the family lives in an apartment at Parkview Court in Hoopeston, and Compton said there's not a lot of space there.

"We've never really had the opportunity to own. Things have always been rough, but they have just given us a clean slate," said Compton, who added that she and her husband had good references and have always done well in the apartments they've had. "Of course, owning is something really great. We've come a long way."

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