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Jun
13
2024
Housing

St. Mary Development Corp. exits low-income housing talks

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Recent efforts to develop a large-scale affordable housing complex in Yellow Springs appear to be stalled for now.

The News obtained an email sent to several Yellow Springs governing bodies by the president of the St. Mary Development Corporation, Tim Bete, who said his organization — which has been working closely with local affordable housing nonprofit YS Home, Inc. — has “decided to end discussions” regarding the pursuit of a tax credit application that could have financed a 50-unit, low-income housing development.

“St. Mary Development no longer believes the time frame is feasible for the Village Council and/or school board to navigate all the issues required to get approval completed for either the CBE or school site,” Bete said in the email, referring to the Village-owned Center for Business and Education, or CBE, and three school district-owned acres adjacent to the middle and high schools — which have been the primary locations up for consideration.

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As previously reported in the News, those lands received a high score on the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s 2024–25 opportunity index, and as such, had a competitive chance at receiving $15 million in subsidies to construct what was projected to be a $20 million housing development.

In response to an email query from the News, Home, Inc. Executive Director Emily Seibel wrote that, though the nonprofit is “certainly open to talking with other developers,” it is “highly unlikely” the organization will have the necessary time to secure another developer with the same credentials as St. Mary before February 2025, when the application for those subsidies is due.

Owing to that impending deadline to apply for those tax credits, Bete and his development organization came to the conclusion that a timely tax credit application “isn’t possible from St. Mary’s standpoint,” the email read.

As Bete added in a follow-up interview, Home, Inc. could still apply for the tax credits, but the state finance agency typically awards organizations with “more experience and capacity” than Home, Inc. — hence St. Mary’s involvement and collaboration up to this point.

“I realize many of you felt that we were very close to having the details worked out for a 2025 tax credit application, but we don’t believe we were close at all,” Bete said in his widely shared email. “Especially considering the need to begin the PUD [rezoning] process by the end of June.”

Home, Inc. has — under the guidance of St. Mary — led the charge in petitioning Village and school district leaders to consider modifying land restrictions and zoning conditions on the CBE and school land to accommodate such a housing development — and with some success. Earlier this month, Village Council members considered the possibility of freeing up money from the Village’s affordable housing fund to support Home, Inc.’s efforts; then, a majority of school board members voted affirmatively to approve “the exploration … to sell three acres of school district property.”

However, because of the tight timeline to change the land conditions of both the CBE and school land, Bete also cited in his email the ongoing “questions and push-back” from local residents, Village staff and elected members of Village Council and the school board as another reason St. Mary will no longer help Home, Inc. pursue the tax credits.

Some of those questions came Friday, May 24, when Village Manager Johnnie Burns sent St. Mary a list of 18 queries — several of which Bete and Home, Inc. staffers have addressed at earlier public meetings.

Among those questions were: “Would St. Mary pay to have the newly purchased land developed for soccer play?” (Likely no, Bete said at the previous Village Council meeting.) “Would these three acres of land need to be in St. Mary’s name before the application is due?” (No.) “Would zoning need to happen before the application is due?” (No, but the rezoning process ought to have begun early this summer, according to Bete at last week’s school board meeting.) 

“If the Council truly does not know the answers to these questions, then the information we’ve shared in the past has not been read and our presentations were not listened to,” Bete said in his email.

“Some might say that they are valid questions, but even if they were valid, they could have been asked by Council six months ago — not when we’re under such a tight deadline regarding the start of the PUD,” Bete wrote. “We no longer have time to proceed, especially with so many unknowns still in front of us.”

Nevertheless, Bete said his organization will continue to work with Home, Inc. and Village leaders to — one day — develop more large-scale affordable housing in Yellow Springs.

“Yellow Springs is in a desperate situation regarding affordable housing,” he wrote. “While I’m sad that St. Mary won’t be involved in a 2025 tax credit application, I would do it all over again even at the long odds.”

He continued: “I encourage [Yellow Springs leaders and others] to continue the diverse stakeholder conversations started by Home, Inc. and work in advance on rezoning for affordable housing so that, when tax credit funding lines up again with sites in Yellow Springs, you can take advantage of the opportunity.”

Seibel also struck a tone of optimism in her correspondence with the News: “We stand ready to support the exploration by our Village’s public bodies to proactively identify sites for future affordable housing projects. Specifically, we entreat everyone to stay at the table and continue stakeholder conversations, acting with urgency, purpose and compassion to identify, prepare and rezone property suitable for affordable housing.”

Village Council is scheduled to publicly discuss the matter of low-income housing tax credits at the group’s next meeting Monday, June 3.

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