County, city of Jefferson moving forward with housing needs assessment

No agreement to hire consultant at this time

A committee formed after the county board of supervisors’ April 25 meeting to conduct a housing needs assessment pre-empted discussion of the subject at the Jefferson city council’s April 26 meeting.

Both the supervisors and the Jefferson city council had on their agendas this week discussion of funding a share of the cost for an outside consultant to develop a model of financial incentives for potential housing developers. A housing needs assessment was to be the consultant’s first step.

A housing study was discussed at length last week at a joint meeting of the two elected boards and the boards of Greene County Development Corporation and Grow Greene. At the time, Lisa Jaskey and Gary Von Ahsen, members of the city council’s housing committee, offered to do the needs assessment. By consensus, the joint group determined the study should be done by an outside consultant.

The proposal to the county supervisors and the Jefferson city council was that they share the cost of the consultant along with GCDC and Grow Greene. Cost was proposed to be $11,700 to the county and the city and $7,800 to GCDC and Grow Greene.

Larry Saddoris, who owns 55 rental units in Jefferson but has a rural address, attended last week’s meeting and the supervisors’ Monday morning meeting. According to Saddoris, the challenge in providing rental housing is that construction costs require a rental rate that is out of reach for those earning the wages paid by local employers.

Saddoris told the supervisors that a housing study should include not only numbers of people who need housing, but their incomes and whether they could pass the background check done by some landlords.

The discussion last week was finding ways to use public money to induce private investment in housing. Board chair John Muir and Guy Richardson attended that meeting. At the supervisors’ Monday meeting, Muir shared his discomfort with using public money to shore up financing for projects private lenders find too risky. “That’s a hurdle I can’t get over. It’s a leap of faith,” Muir said.

Supervisors Mick Burkett and Tom Contner both said they were not willing to be “the banker” for private developers.

Saddoris suggested that an “upscale” mobile home park could fill the need of those who are now coming up short on rental housing. He said “nice” three-bedroom mobile homes are available at $40,000 to $50,000. Richardson and Muir both agreed that could be part of the answer.

Saddoris also offered to help with a housing needs assessment, offering his expertise in what landlords want to know before they okay a tenant. Seeing no funding for the consultant coming from the county, Richardson accepted Saddoris’ offer and they agreed to talk after the meeting.

At the Tuesday city council meeting, Von Ahsen reported that he had met earlier that day with Richardson, Larry Saddoris and his wife Margaret, and GCDC executive Ken Paxton to begin writing the survey.

“I think we’re moving forward. I think everybody’s on the same page,” Von Ahsen said. “With the council’s blessing, we’ll go ahead with it.”

He said the group started with a housing study prepared by Region XII Council of Governments for Perry and selected about a dozen questions to ask for the local survey. Paxton will finalize the questions, and he and members of the committee will meet with area employers to recruit their help in getting employees to complete the survey. The only help asked of Region XII will be advice on using a computer platform like “Survey Monkey”.

Questions will include “basic stuff we need to know what they can afford,” Von Ahsen said. Results will be compiled in a document that will be made available to the public, including potential developers.

The city council agreed they would still entertain a proposal to hire a consultant to work on a model for public-private collaboration in developing housing, but the housing needs assessment would be completed by then.

The city council approved a motion authorizing cooperation with GCDC and the board of supervisors to conduct a housing needs assessment. Eventual funding for a consultant, as was listed on the agenda, was not part of the motion.

 

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