Senate Select Committee Hears from Housing Advocates

Hannah News Service covered Families Flourish CEO Amy Klaben’s testimony Jan. 22, 2024.

The Senate Select Committee on Housing Wednesday continued its investigation into housing issues across the state, hearing from housing advocates who detailed policies they said would improve access and affordability.

Amy Klaben, president and CEO of Families Flourish, told the committee housing production has failed to keep pace with population growth, and the result has been rising rental prices that are surpassing income growth. Between 2009 and 2019, only one home was built for every 2.5 jobs created in Columbus, she said.

Citing the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, Klaben told the committee 32 percent of working class families are housing cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing related expenses.

The state needs “a comprehensive toolkit” to make changes, she said. Policy recommendations from Klaben included zoning reform to allow multifamily units; incentives for landlords to rent to lower income families; rental assistance in addition to eviction prevention; maintaining support for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, and more.

“When the state provides tax incentives for economic development initiatives, the state should also provide an equal amount of tax incentives for the creation of housing for the employees of these companies and the companies that contribute to their growth,” she said. “… We can’t continue to separate housing from economic development, as this has also led to our housing crisis.”

Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) asked if a reduction in property taxes would help create more access and development of housing in some areas.

“The municipalities that you’re referring to have zoning laws that basically prohibit the creation of housing, and some communities are very public about this — that unless the housing produces enough tax money to cover the cost of kids in their school district, they won’t allow the housing to be built,” Klaben said.

She said funding schools so they are less reliant on property taxes would be a “fabulous solution” to housing issues. Brenner said he agrees and that he is working on reforming zoning regulations.

Torey Hollingsworth, executive director of the Ohio CDC Association, said Ohio’s approach to the housing crisis needs to vary between regions. In “hot” markets, housing prices are so inflated that they are out of reach for many families, while in “weak” markets, housing prices remain depressed and cannot support private redevelopment, despite a need for additional housing options, she said.

“As this committee considers how to address the state’s housing challenges, we urge you to continue to devote flexible state dollars to new construction, rehab and repair. While programmatic and regulatory changes can certainly be useful, the largest impediment to community developers producing more high-quality affordable homes is the capital to complete the projects,” Hollingsworth said.

She told the committee her group approves of programs in the last fiscal budget, like Welcome Home Ohio and the Single-Family Housing Tax Credit, which “provide flexible sources of funding to different market conditions and cover potential homeowners of both moderate and middle incomes.”

Other witnesses, like Christine Brown and Susan Wallace, president and CEO of LeadingAge Ohio, emphasized the need for housing options that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Brown suggested the state needs to go beyond ADA requirements so that aging Ohioans and those with disabilities can stay in their homes for the maximum amount of time, as opposed to being forced to go to a nursing home or other facility.

Wallace discussed Ohio’s aging population and highlighted the benefits of on-site service coordinators, which she said are an inexpensive way to improve quality of life for older Ohioans and those with disabilities as well as the extend the amount of time they can live independently.

Others who submitted testimony or appeared in person before the committee include Leah Werner, Corporation for Supportive Housing; Danielle Gray, Ohio Recovery Housing; Katie Carpenter, Lighthouse Behavioral Health Solutions; Ohio Council of Behavioral Health, and Family Services Providers; the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association; and Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on January 24, 2024.  Copyright 2024 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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