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Friday, July 12, 2013 - 7:44pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — Local leaders broke ground Friday on a first of its kind apartment community in East El Paso. The Eastside Crossings community near Zaragoza and Joe Battle will combine public housing with low-income housing and market rate units.
The mixed-income community means people who are receiving public housing and low-income housing benefits will live in identical units, in the same apartment complex as people who can afford to pay the full rent.
Gerald Cichon, the CEO of the Housing of Authority of El Paso said the project is not only expected to bring together people from different walks of life, but also will hopefully encourage young children who grow up in public housing.
"If you grow up in housing, it's what you understand. You probably reapply for it. It's an attempt to put public housing kids next to military families, next to families that work at Wal-Mart and they can see that there's a way other than public housing," said Cichon.
Congressman Beto O'Rourke compared it to a development in Sunset Heights more than a hundred years ago.
"In Sunset Heights, you have first generation immigrants, professors next to students, doctors next to those who are blue collar workers," he said, "I think that allows the young boy or girl a better chance to get ahead, to be more productive and to have success around them, something that they can learn from and hopefully do better by."
Salvador Perales Jr., a mortgage banker in El Paso, grew up in public housing in El Paso's Lower Valley and struggled as a young child with the stigma associated with it.
"The projects are where the cholos live, or where the gangs are, or where the less fortunate live," he said, "The stigma is that once you live in the projects, you're always going to live in the projects. You want to look at some of the other people that maybe motivate you to try and get away from that stigma."
Perales said he always knew he wanted better for his children, but has seen generations of families who never make it out of public housing.
"You copy what you see; a lot of family members don't know any better. They just grow up in the same place so I just didn't want that for my family," said Perales.
The Eastside Crossings apartments are expected to be complete by December, 2014.
According to the Housing Authority of El Paso, people who are already on the housing assistance waiting list will be considered first for the 64 public housing units and 79 low-income housing units. People who plan on renting without assistance will be able to apply once the project is near completion.
Rent is expected to range from $350-$1,000.