In 1945, the Ogle County Board unanimously voted to apply to the State Housing Board for the creation of the Ogle County Housing Authority. The population in the county had increased since the war ended, due to the young men coming home from serving. They were bringing families with them and finding the County had not built any new homes during the war. The county was now faced with increased population and not enough housing to accommodate the masses.
The first housing built by OCHA was in Polo. The commissioners received funds from the State Housing Board to build two houses in Polo. These properties were sold in 1948. Many times during the next few years the Board of Commissioners applied and received State Housing funds for purchasing land, building houses, and setting up subdivisions in Mt. Morris, Rochelle and Oregon.
Between 1952 and 1970, OCHA built homes, established subdivisions and sold these to individual parties. In 1972 the Housing Authority was awarded a contract for the building of low-income housing in the City of Polo. In 1978, thirty elderly 1-bedroom apartments and ten 2-bedroom family apartments were built. This development is located at 407 North Union in Polo, and is named Prairie State Apartments.
In February of 1980, the Housing Authority applied for additional elderly housing in Forreston and Oregon. In 1982, thirty 1-bedroom elderly apartments in Forreston were purchased at 800 South Walnut, which is named Elmer Davis Garden Apartments. In 1983, a three story building with forty 1-bedroom elderly apartments was purchased in Oregon. Also built were nine 3-bedroom and one 4-bedroom apartments. These duplexes are located at 607 South 1st Street in Oregon. In 1987, ten 3-bedroom apartments scattered throughout Polo were built, making the total Public Housing apartments owned at one hundred thirty.
The 1-bedroom properties have a laundry facility, hair salon and community room on site for the enjoyment of our tenants. The facilities in Forreston and Polo were remodeled in 2010-2011, with new energy efficient lighting, new carpeting, wall coverings and furniture for the community rooms.
Our maintenance department performs annual inspections on each apartment and completes work orders when repairs are needed. We also provide snow removal and mowing for the 1-bedroom properties. The 1-bedroom buildings have a locked entry system.
The residents of these HUD owned properties are allowed to continue to rent as long as all HUD rules and requirements are followed. A tenant's lease is renewed yearly. If a resident's income declines for any reason, the OCHA adjusts their rent to comply with the income guidelines set forth by HUD.
Applicants must qualify for housing. There are income limits, family composition requirements, criminal and credit checks that must be performed prior to housing a prospective tenant. The applicant cannot have a violent criminal history. Federal law prohibits the Housing Authority to offer housing assistance to anyone who is a lifetime registered sex offender. We cannot house a tenant if they have been turned into collection for utilities. Once they reach a payment agreement with the utility company, we can then proceed to house the tenant.
Rent amount is based on 30% of the applicant's income. In Public Housing, there is a minimum rent of $50.00 per month. We also have established ceiling rents, so depending on the size of the apartment, the rent will not go over a certain amount.
The Housing Authority applied for and received permission from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to start a new program named "Section 8" or "Housing Choice Voucher", in 1987. The OCHA began this program with 26 vouchers.
Residents of Ogle County apply for "vouchers" which are issued to them so they can begin their search for affordable housing. This program differs from the Public Housing program in that applicants rent from the private sector landlords anywhere in Ogle County. Tenants pay 30% of the rent based on their income and the OCHA pays the balance due to the landlord through subsidy money received monthly from HUD. Today we have 141 Vouchers for use throughout Ogle County.