Old Springfield hospital site to get more affordable senior housing as city faces shortage

Visitors tour Community Gardens, a senior housing development located where Community Hospital used to be. The 50 unit pocket neighborhood was completed in 2018. Its developers are working on a plan that would add 60-more units there. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Visitors tour Community Gardens, a senior housing development located where Community Hospital used to be. The 50 unit pocket neighborhood was completed in 2018. Its developers are working on a plan that would add 60-more units there. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

A Springfield nonprofit focused on sustainable and affordable housing is working on securing funds for the second phase of a project that aims to increase the amount of affordable rental units available to aging residents in the city.

The Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield (NHP) hopes to add 60 one-bedroom apartments after building 50 two-bedroom apartments on the former Community Hospital site in 2018.

Construction for the second phase of that project will fill the remaining space at the old hospital site on Burnett Road and East High Street as well as part of the former Schaefer Middle School site. The project, which started several years ago, is designed to provide affordable housing opportunities to those over the age of 55 and is expected to cost an additional $10.8 million to complete.

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The NHP is currently in the process of obtaining funding that would cover most of the costs associated with the second phase of the project, which is also being co-developed by the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, a Columbus-based nonprofit that aims to provide housing solutions to low-income families.

The current plan is to apply for a total of up to $10 million in state tax credits over a period of 10 years, said Tina Koumoutsos, the special projects coordinator for the NHP. She said the deadline to apply to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for that funding is next month. If approved, both the NHP and Buckeye Community will be able to sell those credits to raise money for the project.

Those organizations are currently receiving approximately $900,000 in competitive tax credits from the state each year, or a total of $9 million over a course of 10 years, for the first phase of the project. Construction for that phase —which cost an estimated $10 million— began in 2017 after developers were awarded those tax credits the previous year.

The city of Springfield supported the senior housing project, including $250,000 in federal housing money and a letter of support for the first phase from city commissioners, the News-Sun reported in 2016.

For the second phase of the project, city commissioners approved a resolution earlier this month that stated that the city had selected Community Gardens as “the priority project for the community in regards to the application for state tax credits.”

The resolution pledged that Springfield would make available up to $500,000 in home funds, or federal housing money, for the project that aims to address dwindling housing stock within city limits that is deemed safe and affordable, especially rental properties.

“The hope is not to take on long-term debt as a result of the project,”Koumoutsos said.

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Her organization as well as Buckeye Community are looking at possible funding from the Housing Development Assistance Programs or applying for a federal home loan to help close up the funding gap if they are approved for state tax credits.

The goal is to have funding secured for the project by 2021 and construction is slated to start that year. The project is expected to be completed by 2022, with construction expected to take up to 10 to 12 months, Koumoutsos added.

The concept to convert the old Community Hospital site into affordable rental units stems from a shortage in that type of housing, not only in the city, but in the county as well. The NHP purchased that land from Community Mercy Health Partners for $100,000 in 2016, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.

Koumoutsos said her organization also has a purchase contract with Springfield City Schools for land at the former Schaefer Middle School site. She said the plan is to purchase that land for $140,000 if their request for additional state tax credits are approved for the Community Gardens project.

When the first phase of the project was completed in 2018, those with NHP said the waiting list to live there reflected the need of affordable senior housing in the city.

“We have over 500 potential residents on a waiting list for a project like this,” Koumoutsos told the News-Sun at the time.

A number of Springfield residents are still spending a large portion of their income on housing, something city officials say continues to be a problem as they work to identify ways to provide more affordable housing opportunities, the News-Sun reported.

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As of late last year, city officials estimated that roughly 40% of city households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The median household income in Springfield is $37,002. However, an estimated 20% of households in the area have an income below $15,000, according to a study, released last year, that looked at the Springfield housing market conducted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Koumoutsos said that shortage is greater for those classified as extremely low-income renters as their was a shortage of 2,585 rental units for 3,805 of those renters in 2015. She said that disparity has not changed much as the demand for rental units has continued to increase in the years following the housing crisis and the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

“The cost of rent is going up as well as the demand. However, the supply is not,” Koumoutsos said.

The Community Gardens project seeks to provide rental units that address three tiers of income; those making 60%, 50% or 30% of Springfield’s medium household income. Rents will be finalized next month for the units built during the second phase of the project, which will be smaller than those built during the first phase, Koumoutsos said.

She said once that project is completed, the next step is to work with the city to gauge what can be done to increase the number of affordable housing units for families.

The Springfield News-Sun has kept you informed about the future of the former Community Hospital site since it was first announced that the hospital would be closed in 2011 as well as ongoing efforts to turn that property into affordable senior housing.

By the numbers:

60: Number of one-bedroom affordable rental units that will be constructed

50: Number of affordable senior housing currently at the site

$10.8 million: Cost of the second phase of the Community Gardens project