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YSDC asked to consider rental housing

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In a presentation made at the YS Development Corporation’s July 5 meeting, villager Dirk Lackovich-Van Gorp asked the organization, amid a months-long process to determine the organization’s future direction, to consider affordable housing as it continues its deliberations.

“I understood that YSDC is going through a visioning process, and I wanted to be here to advocate that the overall issue of affordable housing in the village … become one of the core parts of your vision,” Lackovich-Van Gorp said.

A former construction company owner, Lackovich-Van Gorp has lived in the village with his family since 2014. He is grants manager for Clark County’s Community and Economic Development Department, and is responsible for working with townships, the community and nonprofit partner organizations to design, manage and implement grant programs. He manages several large funding sources, including Housing and Urban Development, block grants for fair housing, community housing impact and preservation and affordable housing.

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“My commitment, to be honest with you, is to maintain the diversity that we love in Yellow Springs, and that I think is a core part of who we are as a village,” he said.

According to Lackovich-Van Gorp, there is a need for the village to maintain economically diverse households. He also emphasized the need for more rental residences in the village.

“In our current society and economy, [homeownership is] going to be a really difficult row to hoe, especially given the current housing prices and construction prices and land prices, not only in Yellow Springs, but in many communities,” he said.

Lackovich-Van Gorp also cited difficulties in procuring homeownership funding as a reason to look to rentals as a solution. Even state and federal subsidies for affordable housing, he said, don’t fully address the issue.

“You just can’t do it in today’s market,” he said. “I am running one program up in Clark County, but we are only able to do that for six to eight families.”

Lackovich-Van Gorp said he thinks the Village needs to consider a large-scale solution for the housing shortage. He pointed to the Village’s purchase and rental of the Lawson Place apartments as a good start, but said it’s ultimately “preserving” affordable housing, not creating more. Solutions for the affordable housing shortage, he said, should also extend beyond development projects led by nonprofit organizations.

“I have a lot of respect for community housing development organizations here. We have Home, Inc. — they’ve done some great work, ” he said. “Now we need to do something more significant, that’s probably beyond what Home, Inc. would normally be able to do with their own resources and connections.”

Lackovich-Van Gorp went on to explain that affordable housing rentals for low- to moderate-income families are often overseen by for-profit developers or nonprofit developers dedicated to that purpose. These developers, he said, have the experience and capacity to put together “stack financing.” He pointed to the partnership between Home, Inc. and St. Mary Development Corporation, an organization dedicated to securing affordable housing for seniors, on a proposed senior housing development as an example of a stack financing project.

He also discussed Legacy Place in nearby Urbana, a recently completed stack financing project that was spearheaded through a community economic development partnership with Champaign County and the Urbana school district. It is a $13.3 million project that includes both the renovation of two Urbana public schools and the addition of a 51-unit senior housing complex at a former downtown hotel.

With all of this in mind, Lackovich-Van Gorp recommended that YSDC consider taking more of a leadership position in providing affordable housing solutions.

“Someone like YSDC [should] seriously think about going out and contacting some of these development corporations — there are several for-profit or nonprofit affordable housing developers in our area,” he said.

Lackovich-Van Gorp added that he thinks mixed rental developments are in the best interest of the village. Mixed-income housing could include a range of options for renters in Yellow Springs, from income-based to market-based rentals — all in the same complex.

“I personally believe for the village to maintain our diversity and meet the need, we don’t need just senior citizen rentals, we need high quality, good, attractive affordable rental housing for all types of households regardless of who they are,” he said.

Citing web sources, Lackovich-Van Gorp said market rates for rental residences in Yellow Springs range from around $700 to $1,400 for two- to three-bedroom apartments or houses. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordability is defined as spending 30% or less of yearly earnings on housing.

“When you start looking at the income needed to afford those [homes] we’re ranging from [needing a yearly salary of] $30,800 for one bedroom,” he said. “We all have friends and neighbors and colleagues and family members and everybody and you look at that and you go, ‘Wow — who would have thought you have to earn $40,000 to afford a two-bedroom apartment?’”

YSDC President Corrie Van Ausdal said she appreciated Lackovich-Van Gorp’s unique take on addressing the village’s issues with affordable housing.

“[He] reached out with something different than I’ve seen presented in Yellow Springs,” she said.

Van Ausdal also said that YSDC had considered taking on affordable housing as part of its mission through a subcommittee a couple of years ago, but that they needed further clarification on how their involvement in the effort would fit with the organization’s economic development mission.

“A couple of years ago, I think the piece of it that wasn’t clear is that, as an engine for economic development, we couldn’t see how that fit under our mission because we were so used to hearing about affordable housing in the context of nonprofit,” she said.

Village Manager Josué Salmerón also expressed support for Lackovich-Van Gorp’s presentation.

“I wholeheartedly endorse all that Dirk said about stack financing,” he said. “I add to the business need for this [that] you have an economic problem when employers can’t find employees because the labor class has been out priced by the community.”

“Those are exactly the problems that we face,” responded YSDC member and local business owner Dino Pallotta. “[It’s] just not realistic for what we can pay [employees], and if they are living in town, we’re just not going to meet the wages whatsoever. It’s just the reality of the business.”

Before ending his presentation, Lackovich-Van Gorp also asked people to reconsider housing affordability terminology like “workforce housing.”

“I don’t particularly like those types of terms,” he said. “You start looking at this and you realize that there’s a lot of younger professional people that cannot afford to live here — schoolteachers, village employees, police officers, fire fighters. And when you start to lose those people from your community, in addition to the folks that are dedicated to working at Tom’s or the drugstore, or Dino’s or the hotels, [you lose] the economic engine that drives this place.”

In closing, Lackovich-Van Gorp re-emphasized the need for larger scale projects — a sentiment with which Salmerón agreed.

“We can’t build our way out of this housing problem one Yellow Springs quirky house at a time,” he said.

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2 Responses to “YSDC asked to consider rental housing”

  1. Lois Hightower-J says:

    Affordable housing is pretty vital to maintain g one’s mental health. The housing situation is particularly bad for elderly because incomes are often cut in half or more if a spouse dies and older people aren’t always suitable to re-enter the work place environment. Thanks for considering all options and concerns surrounding this stressful problem regarding having a place “to live”

  2. Nora Chalfont says:

    Excellent analysis, well conveyed. Thank you Cheryl.

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