Strategies for addressing Springfield housing needs

Report: Springfield tackling right projects to address housing issues

Springfield community leaders will use a newly released 68-page analysis of the city’s housing market to move, “pretty quickly,” on redevelopment in the city.

The Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis made six major recommendations, took nine months to complete, and cost the city and 20 other organizations $50,000.

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said he believes the report didn’t necessarily show any surprises, and more so helped the city to know they are on track with developments currently in progress.

“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.”

He said he believes the city will start moving forward with the recommendations, “pretty quickly.”

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

Springfield Board of Realtors President, Susie Foreman said the study helped to point out a lot of positive things the city is working on, like the downtown luxury townhome project and Ryan Homes single homes development.

Center-Street Townes, a 34-unit, $8 million townhome project in downtown Springfield will be located at the corner of Center and West Columbia streets and will be about 1,300 square feet with 15 of the townhomes expected to be completed in 2020.

On the other side of the city, 231 homes are slated to be built by Ryan Homes just south of the Tuttle Road Walmart in a four phase construction project.

“We know we have an aging housing stock. We have to be able to address that by one, offering new product, and also encouraging reinvestment and redevelopment in our existing neighborhoods,” Heck said.

While the analysis did suggest expanding the housings stock in the city, it also suggested things to lower financial risk within the housing market. One recommendation called for the city to “continue efforts to lower financial risk.”

One way to do that is to expand the current Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) from half of the city, to the entire city, the analysis says.

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.

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“We need to look at our existing neighborhoods and how we can work to revitalize those neighborhoods and strengthen those neighborhoods because that’s the way we are going to be able to move successfully in the future,” Heck said.

Heck said expanding the CRA will help to address the, “revitalization of our existing neighborhoods and encourage investment and redevelopment in our existing neighborhoods.”

The thinking behind that is the reason why the city decided to move forward with having the analysis done, Heck said.

“That’s not just our organization as a city, but as a community-wide belief that we needed to put the time in and the effort into developing this comprehensive market analysis so that we can take the correct steps and look at the right policies for our community as we revitalize and strengthen it,” Heck said.

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.”

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

Alison Goebel, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said the non-profit has done similar studies in communities like Columbus.

“Our goal is to work with economically distressed communities across the state and discuss what they want to be, and what they can be,” Goebel said. “We focus on revitalization issues.”

Goebel said the analysis relied, “heavily,” on housing and real estate data.

“We aren’t on the ground too much and we don’t like to survey residents too much because then they get over-surveyed and can get angry,” Goebel said. “We work a lot with real estate professionals, public sources and proprietary data.”

The analysis also examines demographics, affordable housing and market rate housing.

A demographic overview shows “Springfield’s current conditions with regard to its population. This includes a breakdown for households and family structure, educational statistics, workforce/income and earnings and housing tenure in the city.”

It also examines Springfield’s population trends showing the city lost an estimated 10.5% of its residents between 2000 and 2018, from 60,611 residents to 59,201.

“According to demographic trends, Springfield is expected to continue loosing population. Estimates indicate in 2023 Springfield will have approximately 57,900 residents,” the analysis said.

While the population in Springfield is declining, the hemorrhaging appears to be slowing, according to population estimates from the United State Census Bureau.

More: Population declines slowing in Clark, Champaign

The affordable housing analysis focuses on “current demographic, socioeconomic and housing market trends.”

The overview also found the median household income in Springfield is $37,002, going on to say that Springfield is in need of more affordable housing.

“An estimated 20% of households have an income below $15,000 a year,” the analysis said.

The market rate housing examination focuses on “providing a data-driven analysis of Springfield’s neighborhoods to identify areas of strength for future investments.”

Springfield has an aging housing stock with 50% of its units being built before 1949, according to the analysis. “GOPC firmly believes new market rate housing is needed and will be purchased in Springfield if new housing is available at a range of price points,” the analysis says.

Heck said the analysis to “establish a baseline.”

“So establishing that baseline — what can change? What can help change those, and put those in right the direction, a positive direction, moving forward,” Heck said. “That’s why we’re looking to gather that information and learn about how to improve that.”

“Housing is so important because it’s tied directly to workforce,” Heck said.

The six recommendations include:

• Play to Springfield’s assets.

• Continue focusing on downtown revitalization.

• Support ongoing and future development projects.

• Continue efforts to lower financial risk.

• Protect housing investments.

• Encourage more rehab of existing stock.

Goebel said after the analysis was released, city leaders as well as public and private organizations in Springfield seemed to all be on the same page about moving forward with the recommendations.

“The energy and excitement was really palpable,” Goebel said.

Heck agrees.

“None of this happens in a vacuum,” Heck said. “This was really a combined effort from the start, it’s been a great to have some many hands on this and have so many different organizations be involved.”

Foreman said while the analysis is helpful for everyone involved in making decisions for the city’s housing market, she said it’s important to know that nothing can happen over night.

“We have to start with pride in property. It’s something I have tried to drive home since I have taken office. If everyone would take care of their piece of real estate, or their yard, or their community, we would see a big change,” Foreman said.

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It has to start small, Foreman said.

“It has to start street-by-street. There are other communities who have done that. That have completely reinvested in their communities and that comes with having pride in property.”

Foreman said if the thought of the housing market changing or going up or down is overwhelming, there is one thing you can do that is easy.

“Take care of your property, worry about improving your property,” Foreman said.

For those interested in learning more about the housing analysis, the Springfield City Commission will be reading pieces of it at their next two meetings on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. Meetings take place in the Forum of City Hall and begin at 7 p.m.

Meetings are also live-streamed on the City of Springfield’s Facebook page.

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