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Village Council

Study eyes housing gaps in Yellow Springs

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Yellow Springs has significant gaps in its current housing stock and the housing its citizens will need in upcoming years. 

That was the overall message Village Council heard at its Jan. 16 meeting from Patrick Bowen of Bowen National Research, who presented his firm’s Housing Needs Assessment for Yellow Springs.

The most significant gaps concern the growing groups of local seniors and young people aged 25 to 34.

“Opportunities exist for senior housing and millennial housing,” Bowen said. He indicated a special need for affordable rentals for both of those demographics.

However, most categories of housing in Yellow Springs are in short supply, and he urged the village to try to create new housing across the board. Currently, there are very few vacancies in rentals, and only 12 houses on the market, according to Bowen.

“You want, as a healthy community, to have vacancies,” he said. “You want people to have choices, to be able to move around.”

The presentation, which took almost one-and-a-half hours, concluded a several-months-long housing assessment conducted by Bowen’s firm, which was paid $24,900 for the project. The Columbus-based firm, which employs 25 people, studied local and Dayton-area demographic and economic information, and also interviewed key local employers to identify future needs. The study also included a survey on local housing needs, to which more than 500 villagers responded.

“That was a record for us,” Bowen said of the robust response to the survey. The response indicates a high level of engagement and interest in the village that is not common, he said.

Also unusual is the growing demographic of seniors in Yellow Springs. The village’s median age is currently 50.1 years old, compared with a median age of 37.3 in the surrounding area, and 40.3 in the state.

“This is by far the oldest community I’ve ever studied,” Bowen said. “It is very unusual.”

That growing demographic of seniors means that people aged 65 to 74 are the group growing fastest in Yellow Springs, with an increase of 16.4 percent growth, or 56 individuals, expected in the next several years. Likewise, households of those aged 75 and older are expected to grow by 13.5 percent, or 37 individuals, as villagers age in place in upcoming years.

This growing demographic indicates the need for more maintenance-free housing that allows seniors to downsize, according to Bowen, who recommended condominiums as a possible solution. 

Another notable growing demographic is millennials, a group expected to grow by 40 households, or 22.5 percent, in the next few years. However, the poor quality of much local housing, especially rentals, bodes poorly for Yellow Springs meeting that group’s needs, Bowen said. 

“Millennials tend to want the nicer stuff and you don’t have it here,” he said.

Other notable housing assessment findings included a substantial income gap in the village, where the estimated median household income of $63,024 is significantly higher than that of surrounding areas, yet about 25 percent of local children live in poverty.

“You have a lot of residents who are living well, yet 14 percent live in poverty,” he said.

And an additional finding is that many villagers are housing cost/rental burdened, which means they pay more than 30 percent of income toward housing, thus having less to spend on other needs. About 400 households in the village fit this category, according to Bowen.

“Affordability is an issue,” he said.

And while most surveyed stressed that they were satisfied with their own living situation, and especially appreciate the community “vibe” in Yellow Springs, they identify a lack of affordability and housing availability as a problem in the town.

Due to the length of the presentation, Council members made few comments following Bowen’s talk.

“I find some aspects of this heartening and other aspects concerning,” Council member Lisa Kreeger said. “If we continue on the path we’re walking, those with lower incomes, both seniors and younger families, will get pushed out of Yellow Springs.”

Bowen said that was an accurate assessment.

According to Council President Brian Housh, the study will lead to “important next steps,” with the first step being that a citizen group, the Housing Task Force, will review the Bowen material.

The News will publish a more in-depth article on the Bowen housing study in the Jan. 25 issue of the News, including Bowen’s recommendations. 

In other Jan. 16 Council business:

• Council members assigned themselves as Council liaisons to Village boards and commissions.

Marianne MacQueen will serve as Council liaison to the Planning Commission, the Environmental Commission, the Housing Task Force and Village Mediation. Judith Hempfling will continue as Council liaison on the Justice System Task Force, the Energy Board and the Library Commission. Kevin Stokes will serve as liaison on the Community Access Panel and the Human Relations Commission, and Lisa Kreeger will serve on the Arts and Culture Commission and the Economic Sustainability Commission. Council President Housh will serve on the Greene County Regional Planning Commission and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.

• Village Manager Patti Bates thanked Village crews for their work recently plowing snowy streets and fixing broken water lines.

• Assistant Manager Melissa Dodd announced that villagers who host transient guest lodging such as Airbnbs have until Jan. 31 to register their unit with the Village, in order to comply with the new transient guest lodging tax.  Applications are available online at the Village website, http://www.yso.com.

Dodd also stated that she’s holding office hours to meet with anyone who has questions regarding the new tax. The open office hours will be on Wednesday, Jan. 24, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Utility Office in Bryan Center.

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Study eyes housing gaps in Yellow Springs

by Diane Chiddister