December 24, 2003



Support Home, Inc.’s request

Village Council members made a curious decision last week when they said that they wanted to hold a public hearing on a resolution expressing support for a local housing organization, before voting on the measure. The hearing, while completely valid, is also completely unnecessary. Council members should be able to decide without holding a public hearing whether they want to support a group whose primary goal is to provide moderately priced homes in Yellow Springs.

And Council should offer its support to that group, Yellow Springs Home, Inc., which requested that Council approve the innocuous resolution. The resolution simply states that Council “extends its full support” to Home, Inc.’s efforts to seek funding from a state housing program. Under the program’s competitive grant process, support from a local government carries the most weight, Marianne MacQueen, Home, Inc.’s director, told Council last week, so the group is asking for Council’s formal backing.

Council’s support would certainly go a long way. Home, Inc. has plans to build or renovate up to 11 homes between 2004 and 2006. The group will apply for at least $30,000 per house in state funds to defray the cost of the land on which the houses would sit. That’s serious cash for a small, nonprofit organization. Approving the resolution would not commit the Village financially, nor would it mean the Village was waiving its zoning responsibilities for future Home, Inc. projects. Such a resolution costs the Village nothing but goodwill from the committed people of Home, Inc. and others who think affordable housing is an important issue.

Instead of voting on Home, Inc.’s clear-cut request last week, however, Council members tabled it and set up a public hearing for Jan. 5. Council member Mary J. Alexander was the most adamant about holding the hearing, saying that she would like to have public input on the matter before Council votes on it.

Council is not required to hold formal public hearings on resolutions, only on ordinances, though it has the authority to call for a hearing on whatever issue it wants. Postponing a vote on Home, Inc.’s request, however, gives the impression that some Council members are either skeptical of Home, Inc. and the need for affordable housing in town, or they just want the organization to jump through hoops before voting on the resolution.

Council members have said that they support affordable housing. One of Council’s top goals for 2003 is to increase the local housing supply — a goal that includes the promotion of affordable housing. But concerned about the Village’s strained finances, Council has been more focused on issues related to the Village books and business growth than affordable housing. That does not mean, however, that affordable housing is no longer a critical issue in Yellow Springs or that it does not deserve the Council’s attention.

Next month, Council can pay more than lip service to the issue of affordable housing. It has the opportunity to go on record as supporting affordable housing and a Yellow Springs organization committed to meeting this challenge, Home, Inc.

—Robert Mihalek