PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Congressman Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.-17) is prioritizing two community funding projects in Peoria to the tune of $2.5 million.

Sorensen requested $500,000 for affordable single-family housing in the Southside and $2 million to upgrade and replace sidewalks in the East Bluff.

“The overall connection between these projects, all of them the overarching theme is they have an effect on people. They have a positive effect on our neighbors,” he said.

Through the Affordable Single-Family Housing Project, the city would partner with Habitat for Humanity to increase homeownership. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the homeownership rate in 61605 is 38.8 percent, well below the national homeownership rate of 65.9 percent.

“It’s going to build generational wealth in the city of Peoria, especially as we look at 61605,” said Sorensen.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said homeownership is “vital” to strengthening neighborhoods.

“Homeowners generally do a better job of investing in their properties and making sure that they’re maintained, and that’s something that they help to stabilize neighborhoods. So that’s something that we really would like to see is more homeownership, and we want to work towards it,” he said.

Sorensen said he requested $2 million to upgrade sidewalks in the East Bluff to support walkability and community safety for the long term.

“We need to invest in sidewalks so that our kids can be able to walk to school, can be able to walk to their friend’s house in a safe way,” he said. “That is going to have that positive influence on not only the generation today but the next generation as well. 

Urich said improved sidewalks also improve community vibrancy and even have health benefits.

“So having good sidewalks and good infrastructure allows people to get out, allows them to be active, allows them to walk through their neighborhoods, that really helps public health, and it helps your neighborhoods as you get to know your neighbors when you’re out walking on the street and that helps to build that community spirit in a neighborhood as well,” he said.

The next step is for the Appropriations Committee to greenlight the projects. However, that cannot happen until they pass a budget, and right now, Congress is locked in a bitter dispute over the debt ceiling.

“So it is hard work in Congress to get these funded to get the dirt overturned, to see the construction, and then to see it complete,” said Sorensen.