Housing

Council moves ahead with housing

Villagers offered a robust show of community support for Village Council’s proposed affordable housing project at Council’s meeting Monday, March 21, when Council unanimously approved moving ahead with the first of three steps for the housing project.

A standing-room-only crowd attended the meeting, with many in support of the housing initiative, while others came to address a proposed solar project (to be reported in next week’s News).

When Judy Leighty and her husband, Fritz, moved to the village in 1970, Fritz soon attended a meeting to address the need for affordable housing, according to Judy Leighty, who said she was frustrated that so much time had passed with no action on the issue.

“This is long overdue,” she said to Council. “Many small communities in this state are doing this. We’re lagging behind.”

Kathleen Tong, who lives in a Yellow Springs home built by Home, Inc., spoke of the need for affordable housing in the village. A single parent and teacher in the Dayton Public Schools, Tong said she would not be able to live in the village were she not living in a Home, Inc. house.

“So many teachers I work with want to move to Yellow Springs, but feel they can’t move here on a working-class salary,” Tong said. “We need to embrace the families with children and diversity this would bring to the schools.”

No one at the meeting spoke in opposition to the project.

At the meeting, Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, which Council members developed in collaboration with Home, Inc., the local community land trust organization. The MOU sets out the expections for both the Village and the future developer of the project.

Choosing the developer is the second step that Council would take to move forward, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff, who estimated that it will be two to four years before the project is finished. The third step would be approving an agreement with the developer.

While Home, Inc., has collaborated on the MOU, it has not been chosen as the developer at this point. Ohio law requires that the developer be a nonprofit, according to Village Solicitor John Chambers.

The affordable housing project, proposed by Council President Judith Hempfling and Vice-President Lori Askeland, would create four affordable homes on half of a 0.7 acre parcel of Village-owned land on the south side of Cemetery Street. The Village would sell the land at half its appraised value of about $160,000, a muncipal action that allows the builder to leverage other grants, according to Hempfling.

“This is not a burden to taxpayers,” Hempfling said, stating that the Village staff time involved in the project is minimal, and the Village financial contribution is modest. The project is necessary to “increase the economic diversity of the village, and add additional tax income beneficial to the village and schools,” Hempfling said.

While she voted for the project, Karen Wintrow stated that she has “heard much oppostition” to the proposal and agrees with some of it, including concerns that the Village is using significant resources to benefit only a few people, and that creating high-paying jobs in town should be a greater priority than housing.

However, Wintrow stated she also disagrees with some arguments against the project. Ultimately, she said, “the community has clearly stated in “document after document” that affordable housing is a priority, and “I’m choosing to move forward.”

Other items of Council business will be covered in next week’s News.

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