Strategies for addressing Springfield housing needs

New analysis outlines strategies for addressing Springfield housing needs

The City of Springfield has released a 68-page Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis which features six recommendations for improving residential housing in the city.

According to the summary, the analysis, “is intended to provide community leaders in Springfield with a resource to complement housing conversations and policy initiatives already underway, and serve as a touchstone to guide local policy decisions in their continued effort to address the housing needs of the city.”

“To say that we have had anything like this in our history, is not accurate,” said Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck. “It was important and critical for us to have this so we can make the right decisions moving forward.”

Heck said the analysis mainly focuses on a timeline of 2010 until 2023, and was conducted over the last several months.

The analysis was a partnership between the city and several other organizations including the; Assurant Foundation, Springfield Board of Realtors, Clark County Government, Clark State Community College, Fifth Third Bank, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Huntington National Bank, International Harvester Credit Union, Mercy Health, Neighborhood Housing Partnership, New Carlisle Federal Savings Bank, PNC, Rocking Horse Community Health Center, Security National Bank, South Fountain Preservation, SpringForward, Springfield Foundation, Turner Foundation and Wittenberg University.

The analysis was conducted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center which, according to the center’s website, is “focused on improving the communities of Ohio through smart growth strategies and research.”

The organization made six recommendations from data-collection and developer interviews. The findings include:

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• Play to Springfield’s assets.

“Springfield is rich with anchor institutions, which serve as economic engines of the city. These anchor institutions are Springfield’s educational facilities, which include high schools, career centers and higher education institutions; medical facilities; and banking institutions,” the analysis said. “Springfield is in prime position to leverage these anchor institutions to the city’s benefit to create a pipeline of skilled workers, as well as incentivize homeownership through direct investment and programs.”

• Continue focusing on downtown revitalization.

“In addition to serving as a job center of the county, downtown Springfield has the strong potential to provide mixed-used living that both older and young generations could enjoy,” the analysis said. “The city’s continued commitment to enhance the housing stock in downtown Springfield is a crucial component to further unlocking the potential of downtown.”

• Support ongoing and future development projects.

“The projected 250 new homes through Ryan Homes and 34 condos in downtown Springfield are being watched by local developers, as well as developers from outside the area,” the analysis said. “The city’s seamless efforts to support these developments, as well as other developments underway in the city, holds the potential to encourage new development.”

• Continue efforts to lower financial risk.

“The city’s recent expansion of the Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) to nearly half of the city shows the city’s commitment to being pro-development. In the future, the city should consider expanding the CRA to the entire city to encourage development in all parts of the city,” the analysis said.

• Protect housing investments.

“The City of Springfield has an alarmingly high number of tax delinquent properties- which are mostly renter-occupied,” the analysis said. “Establishing a rental property registry and a vacant property registry can help mitigate these concerns.”

• Encourage more rehab of existing stock.

“Rehab development can be risky due to the appraisal gap and lack of contractors and developers engaged in rehab in Springfield. The land bank is an essential partner for land acquisition and can expand the realm of rehabilitation,” the analysis said.

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Heck said he doesn’t believe the analysis offered any major surprises.

“A lot of this is stuff that we know and we have been working on and looking at,” Heck said. “I think doing this comprehensive study helped to validate a lot of issues in the community.”

Heck said the city is now starting to work towards some of the policy recommendations that Greater Ohio Policy Center presented.

The city has already made some movement on one of the recommendations; expanding the CRA. In February the city voted in favor of consolidating all nine previous CRA districts into one, however, even with the consolidation the CRA does not cover the entire city.

Under the CRA, the city can award a 100% tax abatement to property owners who choose to build new, or improve existing, residential structures within the designated CRA areas.

“I think you will see that come pretty quickly, we’ll be able to work as staff on some of those things in development. Hopefully we will see some more positive change in the very, very near future,” Heck said.

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