Peoria mayor hopes to increase population by reducing crime and increasing housing

Growing the city’s population is a top priority for Peoria Mayor Rita Ali.

It was one of the highlights of his first State of the Town address on Wednesday night at the Scottish Rite Theatre.

Ali said there are many community development opportunities ahead.

“We have funds to demolish buildings and houses where you see sunken roofs and condemned properties. Well, a lot of those properties are going to go away because we have grants through (the) Illinois Housing Development Authority and some funds that the city helps,” she said.

Crime remains a major concern in Peoria, which recorded 34 homicides last year. This is the highest total ever recorded.

Ali said that looking at what next year has to offer, she hopes to see a major reduction in crime, especially crimes including gun violence.

“Shootings to go down, homicides to go down. Next year I want to be able to say, “We made an impact there,” Ali said.

Recently, Ali said Peoria has taken active steps to improve public safety with multiple anti-violence initiatives, launching the Police Plus mental health crisis response pilot program and implementing more camera technology. Ali also noted that police have been diligent in carrying out numerous arrests, confiscating firearms and recovering stolen vehicles.

Now Peoria has $1.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds set aside for violence reduction.

“We will be issuing a request for proposal outside of violence prevention to try to attract other community organizations interested in doing violence prevention programs. It could be youth development. It may be that usually street outreach is somehow tied to the more evidence-based strategy like Cure Violence, but there are other mentorship opportunities and again after-school programs. school and those kinds of opportunities that can help prevent young people from getting involved in crime,” Ali said.

Although it’s not just the crime-related issues Ali said he hopes will improve this year. Ali said she wants to see progress on the potential passenger rail system to improve transportation access in the Peoria area.

Ali also said improving access to affordable housing is a key goal, pointing to the recent launch of the down payment assistance program this year.

“I want to see more progress in housing, providing quality, affordable housing for our residents. We miss it. We don’t have enough. There is a lack of housing across the country, yes, but in Peoria, that’s what worries me. We need to provide more opportunities, especially in areas that need reinvestment,” Ali said.

Through this year’s down payment assistance program, the Land Bank initiative and other efforts, Ali said Peoria is looking to make good use of buildings and properties that already exist in census tracks that qualify as Peoria.

“[The Land Bank] gives us more control over the earth. So we buy some of those properties, vacant land, or vacant buildings that are not put to good use in the county. We buy them rather than allowing people to buy them online and just let them sit around and do nothing productive,” Ali said.

In addition to this, Peoria has sought efforts to increase housing for people facing housing insecurity and homelessness.

Ali said that with the help of Phoenix Community Development Services, funds from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and other community partners, more families have access to homes.

Ali said the waiting list to get a house is almost exhausted because of these efforts.

“We hope it will be exhausted or phased out within one to two years. This does not mean for individuals. There are individuals who are not related to a family who do not have children related to them. So there are always housing needs for these homeless people,” Ali said.

Ali said that while Peoria had a lot of problems, she also had a lot of opportunities.

As the city seeks to eradicate major issues – poverty, crime and homelessness – and the city hopes to prosper economically, the mayor said it was important to attract more people. Ali said that without increasing access to housing, Peoria would not thrive.

“There are certain areas, and I mentioned 61605, where there is distress. We have to win back this population in this region. If we don’t get that population back, we won’t set back the business community, the grocery stores, the pharmacies, etc. So it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg: which comes first? Ali said.

Ali continued, “We need to have quality housing to start attracting business to this area. There are people who would love to live on the south side of Peoria again. We must have accommodation for them.