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The full Examiner story from Tuesday's Bellefontaine City Council meeting is now available below.
Prospects of the Bellefontaine City Council approving two proposed housing projects dimmed Tuesday as several educators spoke out, saying subsidized housing projects have created a “culture of poverty” in the schools and the city.
“Even though the intentions of the projects are often good, the culture that accompanies subsidized housing is not the same as the rest of the community,” said Marilyn Esh, a Bellefontaine City Schools teacher, during a public hearing Tuesday before the council.
“We have to understand the culture of poverty because that is what Bellefontaine has become.”
For educators, it means many of the students they see come from families that don’t value education.
She acknowledged the proposed projects from Tri-County Community Action and Housing Services Alliance Inc. may not start out as subsidized housing, but there is no guarantee the facilities would remain so years from now.
“Watching our schools decline into the poverty culture has been hard,” Ms. Esh said. “Our culture as a community is declining and I’m not convinced these well-intentioned projects will help.”
Both Tri-County and HSA hope to apply for federal tax credits administered by the state to fund the projects. Both projects would provide housing for people who make enough or have retirement income to cover monthly rents.
Tri-County has proposed a $5.5 million project to build a 48-unit senior housing development on a 9.6-acre site off Sloan Boulevard near Township Road 55. The pocket neighborhood design would not permit children nor grandchildren to live in the units.
Rent would be around $540 a month for each of the 14 single-bedroom units and a little more for each of the 34 two-bedroom units. Residents would have to undergo background and credit checks.
HSA wants to build a 40-unit, multi-family apartment development off Kristina Drive. It would cost about $6 million and rents would be no more than $765 per month.
The apartments would be three-bedroom units with attached garages.
HSA’s Robert Bender said it would not adversely impact the neighborhood as it would be at the end of the drive.
It would target working families whose main-income earner is making between $8 to $18 an hour. These are families making too much to qualify for public housing assistance, but not enough to buy a home.
Ron Siddons of Frontier Community Development Service, which would manage the properties, said good management is key to keeping properties both safe and looking good.
“We’re in the (property management) business for good,” he said. “And we manage at a high rate of competency. Taking care of the asset is key for us.
“We manage the hell out of people in our communities. We screen them heavily and we’re not afraid to evict them if we have to.”
Logan County Prosecutor William T. Goslee spoke against the housing proposals, saying past projects have led to decline in property values and increased criminal activity.
“Heritage Court appeared to be quite an asset when it first opened,” he said. “But other housing development stopped and new houses in the area declined in value. It has become a criminal hotbed in our community.”
Anne Reames, a Bellefontaine City School board member, said it is important to help provide low-to-moderate-income housing. Communities have a responsibility to help out the less fortunate.
“Every community has to do its part, and Bellefontaine has done its fair share,” she said. “I’m concerned that we already have 20 different entities providing subsidized housing and I can’t see us doing lots and lots more without the city going under.”
Intermediate School Counselor Marlene Ashbaugh concurred. “I don’t know how long Bellefontaine can hold on. Our agencies are stretched to the max.”
The hearing came on the same night that Mayor Adam Brannon gave his State of the City address. In it, he stated Bellefontaine lacks the necessary new housing to grow and his administration would do what it can to attract development.
Last year, just 11 new single-family homes were built inside the city, and HSA developed three.
Safety Committee Chairman Peter DeSomma said the committee will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss statements made last night and a previous committee meeting.
The committee intends to decide whether or not to recommend council’s support for the projects at the next regular council session at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11.