Butler County wants to bolster affordable housing stock with funding requests

The Butler County commissioners hope to maximize available funds to create more affordable housing stock for people transitioning from addiction and homelessness in the latest round of requests.

The commissioners received requests for $5.1 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for 39 projects to benefit low- and moderate-income residents. The bulk of those, totaling $2.9 million, were applications for Community Development Block Grant funding, and the rest came in HOME Investment Partnerships Program requests.

Desmond Maaytah, community development manager for the Butler County Department of Development, is expecting the county to receive $1.2 million in CDBG funding and $700,000 in HOME funds. There is also $500,000 in HOME funds available to roll over from previous years.

The largest request was for $400,000 to help the YWCA purchase land to a new campus in Hamilton. The $11 million project would provide 45 to 56 units of affordable apartments for the disabled, mentally ill or homeless, Maaytah said.

Few details were available when the YWCA submitted its HOME grant application to the county in November, so it was not recommended for funding by the county’s consolidated planning committee for HUD funds. The commissioners seem interested in possibly funding part or all of the request, so officials are gathering more information, Maaytah said.

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“Since we met, that project had really started going full steam ahead,” Maaytah said.

The commissioners will vote on the projects at the end of February.

“We’re looking at that project and of course we want to support the YWCA but we’re going to look at their project on building and developing just like any of the others,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said.

Another request that was not recommended but the commissioners will consider is for $277,500 from the Serve City homeless shelter in Hamilton to create 30 affordable housing units for people transitioning from homelessness. Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she prefers that project over a recommended $279,000 project by Serve City to create a “cottage community” in Oxford to serve 22 people at a time.

“I’m totally against the cottage community in Oxford, that’s not where the homeless are,” Carpenter said during a work session on Monday. “The homeless, the majority are in Hamilton, that’s where the need is.”

In another recommended project, Partnerships for Housing wants to build an eight-unit rental building for developmentally disabled clients and has requested $300,000.

“I think they want to see how many units they can get, they want to get the best bang for their buck…,” Maaytah told the Journal-News. “We’re going to get down into the details and see how many units we can squeeze out of the money.”

The homeless issue was a hot topic last year when commissioners approved the CDBG and HOME funding. The plan called for $150,000 for a homeless addiction and mental health crisis drop-off center, but after a heated discussion, Rogers and Commissioner Don Dixon moved the money to pay for the parking lot at the county nursing home.

“If you’re both saying no, then we can table it, everybody can go about their business, the homeless people can stay on the sidewalks and the police departments can keep picking them up,” Carpenter said at the time.

The two commissioners said they didn’t have enough information on the project to approve it. At the time they acknowledged the money could be reallocated to the center, proposed for the Transitional Living building near the county Care Facility, at a later time. A special meeting was held, but the issue is still on the table.

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The third-largest request for HOME funding is from the city of Middletown for $260,000 in down payment assistance. Middletown does not have its own HOME program directly with HUD, so it partners with the county to get the funding.

Funding for several Habitat for Humanity homes and down payment and closing cost assistance and rehab for two vacant, foreclosed homes are among the HOME funding requests, as well.

The commissioners had no quarrels with the proposed CDBG projects for this year. The largest proposed allocation is $235,000 for storm sewer replacement in the Five Points area in Farifield Twp. to fix drainage for 23 homes. Robert Jordan, who grew up in that area and whose mother still lives there, implored the commissioners to fund the project.

“We’ve been pushing for this, they’re all elderly people, they’re not very wealthy people either,” Jordan said. “And there are people up there that’s trying to fix their houses up to be more presentable. This might be something that would push them to that.”

Dixon agreed this is a problem that needs fixing.

“There’s nowhere for the water to go, there never has been anywhere for the water to go,” Dixon said. “Over the years there’s been a lot of money put into the sanitary system and some storm, but this is the last big problem we have up there.”

Some other infrastructure projects in various townships and villages are on the list as well as the annual contribution for the Butler County Regional Transit Authority Job Connector, among other requests.

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