Grefe: Local government must commit revenue to Housing FundWritten by Hugh Grefe | | HGrefe@lisc.org
More than 20 years ago, civic leaders in Toledo and Lucas County decided that our community should join more than 700 cities, counties and states in creating a locally controlled and funded resource devoted exclusively to advancing the quality, accessibility and affordability of local housing. They recognized that our community’s housing priorities could not be served by relying solely on state and federal resources.
The Housing Fund is a freestanding nonprofit organization modeled after housing funds across the nation. The Fund channels local financial resources into local housing programs and projects. Having local funds dedicated to housing means that our community is able to address program and project financing gaps not covered by external resources. These local funds assure that housing projects and programs can also serve people slightly above the income restrictions associated with federal and state dollars granted to the City.
The Housing Fund helps create sustainable housing developments and neighborhoods by assuring that more of the “working poor” can participate. In doing so, it allows our community to overcome the limitations of the “one size fits all” nature of state and federal funds.
The Housing Fund board includes representatives from private and public organizations concerned with housing: The Toledo Board of Realtors, the City of Toledo, Lucas County, Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Toledo Home Builders Association, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Toledo Fair Housing Center, Toledo Area Ministries, the Greater Toledo Housing Coalition, the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions, NHA/Mildred Bayer Homeless Clinic, Fifth Third Bank, the Toledo CDC Alliance and AFSCME Ohio Local 8.
To achieve the purpose of housing funds, local government must commit a dedicated revenue stream to its local fund. Although there are many options for how that can be done, it must be reliable and dedicated in order to place the local housing fund on a sound footing. Typically, local governments dedicate a portion of a fee, such as the hotel-motel tax or the real estate conveyance fee to support local housing funds.
At issue now is an obligation of the City of Toledo to provide funds resulting from its use of a $3 million Urban Development Action Grant to build the Superior Garage in Downtown. The legislation in effect resulted from negotiations between the City and the Greater Toledo Housing Coalition; the Housing Fund serves as the fund recipient and program manager to oversee the use of the committed funds.
The Housing Fund works in tandem with other resources to help people in neighborhoods csuffering from blight, vacant lots or homes, and other effects of disinvestment and declining property values. In doing so, the Fund seeks to increase property values, neighborhood stability, and local tax revenue. Housing developers — including private and nonprofits — along with organizations providing housing related services such as foreclosure prevention counseling are invited to submit proposals the Housing Fund. Through this competitive process, the Board seeks the strongest and most effective proposals.
In 2009, the Housing Fund approved grants to the Ability Center to help 25 households improve home access; to United North to assist 25 households with emergency repairs, to the North West Ohio Development Agency and Neighborhood Housing Services to assist in preventing tax foreclosure; and to Toledo Community Development Corporation and Friendship New Vision to help 25 current homeowners with needed repairs. In 2008, the Housing Fund assisted Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity in constructing five new homes and it supported the Toledo Fair Housing Center’s assistance of 10 households to through the Restoring the Dream Predatory Lending Remediation Program. The Fund also made a loan to support the Dorr Street Brownstone development.
Although resources available to the Housing Fund remain modest in comparison to the challenges facing housing in the greater Toledo area, the Fund Board is committed to working with local government to ensure that we have the strongest possible local housing program.
The Housing Fund Board agrees strongly with the Toledo Board of Realtors President Mary Ann Coleman, who wrote the following to members of City Council:
“It is with great concern for citizens in need that I write and urge you to ask Mayor Michael Bell to reconsider his recent decision to discontinue funding the Toledo-Lucas County Housing Trust. Now is the worst time to stop funding any organization that has a good track record of making a difference in Toledo housing. If we do not continue to work on housing issues, nothing else will matter. No one will want to live in Toledo.”
Hugh Grefe is senior executive director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation. E-mail him at HGrefe@lisc.org.
Tags: AFSCME Ohio Local 8, City of Toledo, Fifth Third Bank, Housing Fund, Hugh Grefe, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Lucas County, Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority, NHA/Mildred Bayer Homeless Clinic, the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, the City of Toledo, the Greater Toledo Housing Coalition, The Toledo Board of Realtors, the Toledo CDC Alliance, the Toledo Fair Housing Center, the Toledo Home Builders Association, Toledo Area Ministries, Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions