When a new luxury apartment complex opens in Shiloh in a few years, the $2,000 per month three-bedroom apartments will be among the priciest in the area.
While The Savannah apartments are aimed at wealthy young professionals who might work at Scott Air Force Base or the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, it’s leaving some residents wondering where the affordable rentals are.
Former Shiloh renter Venessa Duckett said the cost of her previous one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Shiloh just wasn’t worth the $740 per month price tag.
“It was affordable and good for me because I had just left a marriage,” Duckett said. But there wasn’t enough room in the small apartment for her and her two children to make it worth the cost.
“You do have a roof over your head. It is better than being homeless,” Duckett said. “But I’ve seen worse properties that go for way more.”
Residents choose O’Fallon or Shiloh for the school districts and public amenities, says O’Fallon homeowner Barbara Long-Schleckser. She moved to O’Fallon with her family in 2004 to work at the Air Force base. She and her husband retired two years later but stayed because they wanted their children to attend O’Fallon schools, despite the high property taxes.
The median rental price in O’Fallon in 2016 was $1,345, according to data from Zillow. In Shiloh, it was $1,364. That compares to $984 in Fairview Heights and $881 in Belleville. The gross median household income in O’Fallon was $76,722, while Shiloh’s was $80,383, according to 2011-2015 five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. It was $43,318 in Belleville and $59,948 in Fairview Heights.
Attracting and keeping citizens who don’t earn quite so much is a challenge for O’Fallon, says Mayor Herb Roach. When he was campaigning for mayor, he talked to at least 11 residents who said they would have to move away because of high taxes.
“When I checked with them later, 10 of 11 had moved,” Roach said. “This was a real problem for them.”
Roach said the city is making an effort to improve the older — and more affordable — “Presidential Streets” neighborhood northeast of downtown by remediating roadways and storm water drainage.
“These are some of the areas that were unfortunately forgotten for many years,” Roach said. “If you don’t maintain a good solid infrastructure, you not only are not going to keep the people you have but it’s going to become a blighted area and blight spreads.”
If you don’t maintain a good solid infrastructure, you not only are not going to keep the people you have but it’s going to become a blighted area and blight spreads.
O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach
Shiloh experienced its own problems with apartments in the area known as Glen Addie, says Mayor Jim Vernier. To reduce crime, the village annexed the area and stepped up policing.
“It unfortunately took a turn for the worse and had a lot of crime and the landlords weren’t doing a very good job maintaining their properties,” Vernier said. “Now the new property owners in those neighborhoods have cleaned up the crime problems, as have our police.”
Though rent prices have increased in those areas, the Shiloh mayor says there are still affordable properties for lower-income residents or individuals “just starting out in life.”
Less expensive rental properties in Shiloh include three mobile home parks and various apartment complexes, Vernier said. A search for apartments in Shiloh turned up rents ranging from $600 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,100 for a two-bedroom, two-bath.
“I think we have a very diverse rental market,” the mayor said.
But Duckett, the mother of two who lived in Shiloh, ended up moving to Granite City, where she says she rents a more spacious home for $650 per month.
“It’s not perfect, but for what I have, I’m pretty fortunate,” Duckett said.
More affluent renters hoping to live in Shiloh will have another option when a luxury apartment complex opens. Apartments will go for $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,000 for a three-bedroom.
Approval for the project barely passed after village residents and trustees expressed concerns over traffic, safety and impact on schools.
Long-Schleckser, the O’Fallon resident, says Shiloh residents should embrace “the opportunity to capture some of the revenue gained by the apartment.” She drove through Shiloh every day on her way to Scott Air Force Base for work.
“If Shiloh has a pressing need for low-income housing then by all means seek a contractor willing to come in and build some,” Long-Schleckser added. “But that does not mean it’s a good idea to stop the luxury apartments from being built.”
The lack of housing for lower or average income residents is a concern for O’Fallon, the mayor said. Having a diverse income in the community means the city can better “ride the ups and downs of our economy,” Roach said.
“As sure as we’re sitting here talking right now, there’s going to be a downturn. But not all segments of the economy go up or down at the same time,” Roach said.
Two contractors have reached out to the city about bringing in more affordable housing not only for low-income residents, but also starter families and retirees, the mayor said. He declined to name the contractors because no projects have been identified yet.
“New development isn’t just about the wealthier sections of your community,” Roach said. “And you’re not going to attract new people and new businesses without different ideas, different approaches.”
But a priority before building new housing, the mayor said, is taking care of its existing older neighborhoods.
“If I were a new business and I didn’t see (the city was) caring for the older businesses, improving older structures, five years from now I won’t be the new guy on the block,” Roach said. “And I could be treated in the same manner.”