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Story of the Year

After spending most of her childhood moving around and then 14 years in the military, Toni Smith was more than ready to put down roots in a “forever home,” in a place where she could raise her children and build a community.

Last year, she bought and moved into a newly built, affordable home in the East Bluff neighborhood of Peoria. Her house is one of the new units constructed as the East Bluff revitalization initiative led by LISC and partners to reinvigorate an area that has a history of underinvestment.

“We absolutely love it here,” says Smith. “We love that the neighbors are always out on their porches and that kids are running around having fun.” She appreciates, too, that the initiative has brought additional programs and services for residents.

Not long ago, East Bluff’s sense of community was in retreat—crime and disorder had taken a toll on residents’ sense of connection to each other. But the new houses—and there are more on the way—combined with home repairs and other LISC-supported investments, have had a profound economic and social impact in East Bluff and have attracted upwards of $7 million in additional funding.

Those resources are being invested in everything from demolition of homes, for-sale rehab and new construction to supportive rental units, down payment assistance, and housing counseling.

It all started with a $3 million grant from the state of Illinois that LISC facilitated to develop affordable homes in East Bluff. That grant in turn attracted another $2.6 million from the state for supportive rental housing in the neighborhood, followed by more than $1.2 million from the city and a private foundation--all for new home and rehab construction and down payment assistance.

Last year, when the first new homes went on the market, they sold within three months. For Tim Riggenbach, a city councilmember who represents the area, LISC’s work in East Bluff has proven the adage that “if you build it, they will come.”

“Seeing new houses being built for the first time in 20 years has just been a tremendous morale booster [in East Bluff],” said Riggenbach. “LISC is like the quarterback, if you will, helping people understand other people” and smoothing the way for progress.

Kenny Williams, a longtime East Bluff resident, describes the ripple effect of LISC’s investment as nothing short of transformative. “We’re not hiding behind doors any more,” he said. “LISC actually made people want to sit on their porches again. They actually helped us to take back our neighborhood.”

Photo credit: Videogenique


Since 2013

$28 million
total investment

$24 million

affordable homes
& apartments

2017 Funders

Private Sector Support

Public Sector Support


Executive Director: Karen Davis

101 SW Adams Street, Suite 210
Peoria, IL 61602

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