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Burlington Looking for Community Input on Housing Issues

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David Hightower
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One of the Burlington City Council’s goals for this year is to address housing issues in the community. 

City Manager Chad Bird is starting his second month on the job by looking for public input about those issues. He asked for input on social media recently, and said he's received a lot of feedback already. 

Bird said one issue is a need for affordable housing, but he said it's a "difficult subject matter."

"Affordable is a nebulous term, it means different things for different people."

Bird said the city can help developers create affordable housing in Burlington by using tax abatement programs or by using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to help with infrastructure costs.

Bird also said some people would like to become home owners but have difficulty getting approved for financing or coming up with a down payment. He said there are programs to help them with those issues, and also programs that can help make a home more affordable once they are able to purchase. 

"A lot of times people can get into a home, but then find out that the utility costs are just skyrocketing because the home is not properly weatherized," Bird said. He is looking for ways to promote those programs to Burlington residents. 

Financial Literacy Programs

Several weeks ago the Black Leadership Council (BLC) in Burlington brought concerns to city leaders after an executive with F&M Bank made racial comments on social media.

The group said it asked the bank to create a financial literacy program for Black people who wanted to improve their credit so they could purchase homes. 

Although the issues with the bank weren't resolved, Councilperson Lynda Graham-Murray voiced support for the city partnering with Southeastern Community College or another organization to create a financial literacy program for anyone looking to improve their situation. 

Bird said he would support having the city help create a financial literacy program for its residents. "It's not just simply getting someone in a home," Bird said. 

"Some of our housing programs, where maybe there's income guidelines or more complicated application processes. How can we work with folks to have classes that help them with the application process or understand what home ownership means?" 

Still Seeking Input

Bird said this isn't a "quick fix" and he's still looking for input on how the city can help people with their housing issues. He said people can share their ideas by coming to City Hall, calling him, or responding to his Facebook post on the City of Burlington's page.

He said the feedback will help him better understand the community.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

David Hightower is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.