The Housing Authority of Henry County is an Illinois municipal corporation formed pursuant to state law. Board members are appointed by the County Board Chairman for a five-year term. Board members serve in a volunteer capacity and spend many hours in meetings to set policy for the housing authority, establish budgets, and provide for the staffing of a housing authority Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Executive Officer is in charge of managing the day to day operation of the housing authority. This includes, but is not limited to, implementing board policies; hiring, dismissal, promotion, and demotion of appropriate staff; preparing budgets and reports; and ensuring the housing authority complies with all applicable Federal, State, and Local laws.
The Housing Authority of Henry County (HAHC) was established by a 6 member board in 1939 in response to the Housing Act of 1937 which created the U.S. Housing Authority. Arthur Cook, C.E. Humphrey, Philip Adler, Joseph VanHyfte, J.B. McHugh and Attorney W.C. Ewan comprised the first board. They hired Mr. E. A. Schneider as the first CEO. He served for 35 years and was succeeded by Mr. Henry Muller.
The Housing Authority concept was formed to provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing while stimulating job development during the depression. Henry County was 9th out of nearly 100 housing authorities in the state to submit approved plans for original formation.
The first “project”, as it was called in the early years, was Fairview Homes. Finished in 1940, Fairview provided 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedroom apartments for families, the elderly, and returning war veterans. In those days, rent was fixed at a modest rate and occupancy was targeted for the lower income working class. Strict eligibility rules were in place; families must have two parents and the head of household must hold a job. Unannounced inspections assessed housekeeping skills and would levy fines on the household if their apartment or yard was not kept up to standards.
The Housing Act of 1949 marked the second large wave of housing initiatives. Rent subsidy was established as well as income and rent restrictions. It was at this point that priority selection criteria included targeting the very low-income households. The working class was, in effect, shoved out into private rentals. This era saw the addition of 50 apartments at the Fairview site and 12 apartments near Kewanee’s industrial tract, known as Knox apartments that were sold years later.
During the Sixties, landmark civil rights cases led to the formation of fair housing initiatives. It was also during this time that focus began to shift to inventory for the elderly and disabled. Lincoln House, a 51 unit hi-rise in Galva was built to serve the elderly in 1970. Washington Apartments, a 74 unit hi-rise in Kewanee followed in 1972, and Maple City, a 63 unit hi-rise in Geneseo opened in 1973.
The housing authority expanded its public housing inventory again in 1984 with the addition of a 50 unit hi-rise in Kewanee called Hollis House and 44 unit family complex off Lake Street in Kewanee, called Lakeland Terrace. This would be the last of the newly constructed standard public housing stock for the housing authority. During this decade, the rental subsidy program known at that time, Section 8, was introduced as a nationwide integration effort. The HAHC was awarded 176 vouchers to subsidize rent. By the Nineties, it became apparent that the early housing stock needed updating. It also became clear that Housing Authorities were providing much more than affordable housing. It was during this period, that capital funding for improvements became more widely available and competitive grant programs addressing social needs arose.
Kathleen (Kate) Barton came on board as Assistant Director in 1995 and was quickly offered the CEO job. Under her leadership, one of the first grants awarded to the housing authority was for enhanced security which funded security cameras and a full-time police officer for several years starting in 1997. Grant funded programming grew over the next decade offering self-sufficiency and case management activities.
The world of financing new developments drastically changed over the previous several decades. Mixed financing involving tax credits became available, though highly competitive. The Kewanee Hotel transformation began in 2004 and opened in 2007 offering 41 affordable apartments and is known as Parkside Apartments. This award-winning development was a result of tax credit financing and considered the crowning achievement of Ms. Barton’s nearly 20 year highly successful career.
Angela Hathaway succeeded Ms. Barton in early 2014. Ms. Hathaway has been in a number of roles since beginning her housing authority employment in 1997 and is a big believer of the importance of stable housing and providing opportunity for growth.