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Council could do more to promote YS affordability

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If Village Council took a leadership role, it could make Yellow Springs more friendly to affordable housing.

That was the message delivered by Home, Inc. executive director Marianne MacQueen at Village Council’s Aug. 3 meeting. Council did not take action, nor discuss MacQueen’s suggestions, although Council President Judith Hempfling stated that the issue will be addressed during the upcoming visioning effort.

In its 10 years as a local nonprofit dedicated to increasing village affordable housing stock, Home, Inc. has built or rehabbed 12 affordable homes.

“When you talk about affordable housing, you’re talking about people,” MacQueen said, stating that those who live in Home, Inc., homes are teachers, social workers and artists, among others.

Council needs to keep in mind how its actions in pursuit of other Village goals may affect the stock of local affordable housing, MacQueen said. For instance, Council should be aware that preserving green space around Yellow Springs will make living here more expensive.

“To the degree that we create green space around us, we increase the cost of housing,” she said.

A group of young families has in recent years moved to the area north of Yellow Springs because they want to be a part of the community, but can’t afford to buy a home in the village, according to MacQueen.

“Think how nice it would be if we had housing so these people could actually live here,” she said.

Communities that take a proactive approach to affordable housing, such as Burlington, Va., have taken a variety of initiatives, MacQueen said.

• One of the most effective steps is to make the municipal zoning code friendly to affordable housing. Specifically, MacQueen said, Yellow Springs could change its current code to allow smaller lot sizes that would hold smaller, less expensive homes.

• Council could legislate inclusionary zoning, which means that any housing development must include a certain number of affordable homes. For example, a development of 10 homes could include one that is affordable.

• Council could make publicly owned land available for affordable housing. This land could be donated or sold at a reduced cost for the development of affordable homes, including both rentals and single family homes. Also, vacant property and property with delinquent taxes could be acquired for an affordable housing development.

• Affordable rental housing is especially important to those who can’t afford ownership. To encourage the construction of affordable rentals, Council could partner with Home, Inc. in developing a low income housing tax credit to construct these units on Village-owned land, MacQueen said.

• Council could speed up the current process for Planned Unit Developments, which are nontraditional housing developments and currently take up to a year for the approval process. Projects that meet criteria for affordability could be expedited.

• Council could reduce fees for the construction or rehabbing of affordable housing.

• Council could develop a special fund for affordable housing, similar to the green space fund, that could be used to assist in the purchase of land or development of affordable housing.

• Council could appoint a representative of Village government to the Home, Inc., board.

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