affordable housing development, housing policy

Local Housing Needs: Where are We Now? Where Should We Go From Here?

wendy-aros-routman-225432

By Deborah Myerson

Last week, the Joint Center for Housing Studies released their 2018 State of the Nation’s Housing, a report the Center has issued annually for the last 30 years. The national trends and housing challenges in the report are reflected locally, as well.

National Trends

Almost half of all renters nationally, 47 percent, are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. (30 percent of one’s income is the typical measurement for housing affordability.) More than half of these households pay over 50 percent of their income for housing.

  • The national median rent rose 20 percent faster than overall inflation between 1990 and 2016 and the median home price rose 41 percent faster. Today’s Herald-Times highlighted this issue locally: in the last year, for-sale home prices have risen by nearly 20 percent.
  • Factors include higher costs for building materials and labor, increased land costs, regulatory barriers, and growing income inequality.
  • In 2015, only one out of every four very low-income renter households nationally received rental assistance.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition also recently released their annual Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing report that compares rents and wages nationally and in every state, country, and city in the U.S. Out of Reach 2018 shows that both average renter wages and prevailing minimum wages are insufficient to afford modest rental apartments throughout the country. The disparity is severe for those with the lowest incomes.

Monroe County Housing Costs

  • In 2018, the two-bedroom Housing Wage is $17.69 per hour. This means that a local household must earn at least $17.69 per hour, or $36,800 annually, to afford a two-bedroom rental home at HUD’s average fair-market rent of $920 per month. Yet, the median income in Monroe County is $75,800.
  • An affordable rent for renters in Monroe County earning the average hourly wage of is $10.08 would be $524 per month. This is 43 percent less than the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

So clearly, we have dire housing needs in our community that are not being addressed by the market. As you may have guessed, Monroe County is the most expensive housing market in Indiana.

Yet, as complicated as housing issues can be, there actually only two ways to improve housing affordability: increase household income, and/or lower housing costs. My comments below address only the latter.

To lower housing costs for low- and moderate-income households there are two important considerations: increase the supply of housing, and provide subsidy for new construction to lower the cost for renters and homebuyers.

Proposals for Bloomington and Monroe County

  1. Prioritize the public interest in the development of publicly owned land. It is urgent to target the production of housing for the low- and moderate-income households that are not being served by the market. Public ownership is a valuable form of subsidy that should be used to leverage housing affordability. The City of Bloomington has some specific upcoming opportunities coming up to do this, including commercial land acquired along Walnut Street near Switchyard Park, as well as the eventual redevelopment of the old hospital site.
  2. Adopt a non-binding resolution that recognizes housing as a human right. Cities such as Madison, Wisconsin (in coordination with Dane County) have done this successfully as a way to drive policy considerations.
  3. Explore how to secure a dedicated source of local revenue to support a meaningful increase in the supply of affordable housing. Bloomington’s Housing Development Fund is an important first step, but is not a guaranteed source of revenue. If we truly want Bloomington and Monroe County to be home to people with a mix of incomes, we need a dedicated and consistent source of funding for affordable housing.
  4. Implement Affordable Housing action items in the City of Bloomington’s adopted Comprehensive Plan (pp. 64-65) to help direct the city’s housing needs productively. This includes:
    1. Establish a City Housing Commission. This body can acquire information on and study residents’ housing needs and opportunities, make policy recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding issues affecting affordable housing and supportive services in the community. The Monroe County Commissioners recently authorized an Affordable Housing Advisory Commission for the county. (I will admit that an intergovernmental city-county housing commission is ultimately on my wish list.) A Housing Commission could help direct the next two items, which are also in the city’s Comprehensive Plan:
    1. Conduct a residential market analysis and housing inventory. This will help identify gaps in current and future market demand for all income levels. Good examples include Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Madison, Wisconsin.
    2. Develop a detailed local housing strategy based on findings in the completed housing evaluation, residential market analysis, and housing inventory.

Please join us to advocate for these elements that will create a strong foundation that can build inclusive and sustainable places to live for everyone in our community.

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Deborah Myerson is executive director of South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities (SCIHO). SCIHO is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to expanding housing options for low- and moderate-income households in Bloomington, Monroe County, and surrounding counties. SCIHO accomplishes its mission through a variety of programs, ranging from new construction of Switchyard Apartments to expanding resources for low-income renters, such as with our new Housing4Hoosiers.org tenant resource website.

Ms. Myerson is also Advocacy Co-chair for the South Central Housing Network, a group of regional social service organizations that aims to provide, coordinate, and advocate for the best possible housing resources and supportive services for those in need in South Central Indiana. The South Central Housing Network adopted an Advocacy Agenda in 2017, focusing on housing needs in Monroe County.

affordable housing development, Local News, Switchyard Park Apartments, Uncategorized

SCIHO Awarded $500,000 Grant for the Development of Switchyard Apartments

SCIHOSitePlan_051717We are excited to announce that South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities, in partnership with BloomBank, has been awarded $500,000 in competitive Affordable Housing Program grant funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis for the development of Switchyard Apartments.  This is an essential piece of financing for the $1.2 million project, which will be Phase 1 of a total development of 16 affordable apartments at 1901 S. Rogers adjacent to the new city park now under development.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis reported receiving 47 applications, of which 25 projects were awarded grant funding. More information about this round is available on their website.

We are grateful for the leadership from Mayor Hamilton’s office to initiate the donation of this land for the development of affordable housing and deeply appreciate the collaboration from city staff and support from community partners to create a competitive proposal.

Mayor John Hamilton’s administration has requested approval of a 99-year lease at the cost of $1 for City-owned land adjacent to Switchyard Park. SCIHO proposal for Switchyard Apartments envisions plans for 16 affordable housing units in two phases.

The high cost of land is one reason that housing is often expensive in the City of Bloomington. The city’s dedication of this land for affordable housing development makes Switchyard Apartments, feasible—rather than impossible.

Cooperation with the City of Bloomington

Since the City proposed the allocation of this site for affordable housing development in March, SCIHO has had the pleasure of working with Doris Sims, director of Housing and Neighborhood Development and Paula McDevitt, director of Parks and Recreation, to consider how to make this idea a reality.  Their collaboration and support has been invaluable to navigate the admittedly complex process of affordable housing development.

Switchyard Apartments

Affordable housing development demands attention to design, affordability, finance, and community engagement.

Design

Our proposal is to develop Switchyard Apartments in two phases of eight units each. We have worked with Springpoint Architects to produce a preliminary site plan for the project, with a community room, laundry, parking, and a courtyard with a community garden between the East and West buildings.

Affordability

With 100 percent affordable units, rents for the proposed project will be targeted for low-income households. However, truly affordable housing is not only about cost—it is also about location and proximity to amenities. Simply put, this site is an outstanding location. Not only does it share a backyard with Switchyard Park, which will soon be the newest gem of among our city’s parks, but it is in a walkable location on a bus line and near the B-line Trail, with easy access to employment, groceries, educational resources, and more.

Financing

Affordable housing development always requires multiple layers of finance, and this $1.2 million project is no different. In addition to the $500,000 in gap funding awarded from the FHLBI’s Affordable Housing Program, we are pleased to have a $400,000 loan commitment from BloomBank for Switchyard Apartments. The City is reviewing a commitment of up to $200,000 to assist in the construction of the units through HOME Investment Partnership funding, including CHDO set-aside funds for such projects. SCIHO has also applied for funds from the city’s Affordable Housing Development Fund.

Community Engagement

One of our next big efforts on this project is community engagement—particularly with neighbors and low-income households. We are seeking feedback from low-income potential residents each stage of the project development, including project concept, site location, design and property management. This input is extremely important to ensure that the project best meets the needs of potential residents as well as the neighborhood. We will invite neighbors and potential residents to participate in community meetings and complete surveys.

We have also initiated prospective partnerships that can support residents’ financial empowerment, with local institutions such as MCCSC’s Adult Education program, Monroe County Head Start, Old National Bank, WorkOne, and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. In addition, we have committed to a partnership with LIFEDesigns to designate several units for people with disabilities.

We are grateful to have gotten off to a strong start in collaboration with the City. When Switchyard Apartments is completed we will have not only 16 new apartments for low-income households—but a new and replicable model for affordable housing production in the City of Bloomington.

affordable housing development, Local News, Switchyard Park Apartments, Uncategorized

Announcing Switchyard Park Apartments

South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities (SCIHO) is pleased to announce our plans for an important new affordable housing development: Switchyard Park Apartments, proposed for 1901 S Rogers St, Bloomington, Indiana, adjacent to the new city park now under development.

Mayor John Hamilton’s administration has requested approval of a 99-year lease at the cost of $1 for City-owned land adjacent to Switchyard Park. SCIHO proposal for Switchyard Park Apartments envisions plans for 16 affordable housing units in two phases.

The high cost of land is one reason that housing is often expensive in the City of Bloomington. The city’s dedication of this land for affordable housing development makes Switchyard Park Apartments, feasible—rather than impossible.SCIHOSitePlan_051717

Below is an excerpt of remarks from Deborah Myerson, SCIHO executive director, at the city’s May 17 news conference announcing the City of Bloomington’s proposed partnership with SCIHO on this project. Full remarks are here.

Cooperation with the City of Bloomington

Since the City proposed the allocation of this site for affordable housing development in March, SCIHO has had the pleasure of working with Doris Sims, director of Housing and Neighborhood Development and Paula McDevitt, director of Parks and Recreation, to consider how to make this idea a reality.  Their collaboration and support has been invaluable to navigate the admittedly complex process of affordable housing development.

Switchyard Park Apartments

Affordable housing development demands attention to design, affordability, finance, and community engagement.

Design

Our proposal is to develop Switchyard Park Apartments in two phases of eight units each. We have worked with Springpoint Architects to produce a preliminary site plan for the project, with a community room, laundry, parking, and a courtyard with a community garden between the East and West buildings.

Affordability

With 100 percent affordable units, rents for the proposed project will be targeted for low-income households, ranging from $550-$650 for one-bedroom units to $655-$850 for the 2-bedroom apartments. However, truly affordable housing is not only about cost—it is also about location and proximity to amenities. Simply put, this site is an outstanding location. Not only does it share a backyard with Switchyard Park, which will soon be the newest gem of among our city’s parks, but it is in a walkable location on a bus line and near the B-line Trail, with easy access to employment, groceries, educational resources, and more.

Financing

Affordable housing development always requires multiple layers of finance, and this $1.2 million project is no different. We are pleased to have a $400,000 loan commitment from BloomBank for Switchyard Park Apartments. The City is reviewing a commitment of up to $200,000 to assist in the construction of the units through HOME Investment Partnership funding, including CHDO set-aside funds for such projects. SCIHO has also applied for funds from the competitive Affordable Housing Program with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis.

Community Engagement

One of our next big efforts on this project is community engagement—particularly with neighbors and low-income households. We are seeking feedback from low-income potential residents each stage of the project development, including project concept, site location, design and property management. This input is extremely important to ensure that the project best meets the needs of potential residents as well as the neighborhood. We will invite neighbors and potential residents to participate in community meetings and complete surveys.

We have also initiated prospective partnerships that can support residents’ financial empowerment, with local institutions such as MCCSC’s Adult Education program, Monroe County Head Start, Old National Bank, WorkOne, and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. In addition, we have committed to a partnership with LIFEDesigns to designate several units for people with disabilities.

We are only at the beginning of this journey, but are grateful to have gotten off to a strong start in collaboration with the City. And if all goes well, when Switchyard Park Apartments is completed we will have not only 16 new apartments for low-income households—but a new and replicable model for affordable housing production in the City of Bloomington.