Low-income housing complex in Valparaiso wins variances
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent August 21, 2013 4:59PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 2:25PM
VALPARAISO — The conversion of the old Healthlinc building at 554 Locust St. into an 18-unit low-income housing complex should begin in spring.
The Board of Zoning Appeals approved four variances that the old building would need for one-bedroom apartments for single people that would cost a little more than $300 a month.
More than 50 people attended Tuesday’s public hearing for the renovation of the building by Project Neighbors, and most spoke in favor of the apartment, while the ones against were most concerned about density and the parking situation for their own buildings.
One of those speaking in favor was City Administrator Bill Oeding, who said he worked with Project Neighbors on the number of tenants and other matters.
Oeding believes the organization will maintain the standards they promised.
“In every situation I could find, they have kept their word and stayed to it,” he said.
The BZA members’ approval is contingent on three items that board attorney Patrick Lyp will codify.
Project Neighbors is talking to Valparaiso University about using parking lots on Locust and near the old Maria Elena’s and should hear about them in a month, so tenant use will be one condition.
The apartments will also be rented to single tenants, and the Housing Opportunities guidelines will be used to screen tenants.
Housing Opportunities, which runs Porter County homeless shelters, will manage the site.
Caroline Shook said the organization does criminal and eviction histories, income verifications and rental histories.
The variances the BZA granted for the proposed complex are: not requiring 43 on-site spaces, not requiring 40 percent open space (the building has about 30 percent), not requiring 2.5 acres for the 0.32 acre site and allowing more than two apartments.
Attorney Ivan Bodensteiner said the place would probably have fewer parking problems with Healthlinc and its more than 50 employees gone and that most of the clients on the waiting list don’t have cars.
Others said the lack of parking in the neighborhood came from law school students.
Resident Harlan Bjornstad said there are few other uses for the building as “it doesn’t seem like a likely spot for investment.”