SPEC HOUSE … This lovely little home is almost finished on Ohio St. in Montpelier. The Port Authority Board are happily working on purchasing the next Williams County lot where another spec house will be built, as they work hard to help with the lack of good, affordable, housing in the county. (PHOTO PROVIDED)
By: Rebecca Miller
A common problem across America at present is a great lack of affordable housing for laborers and their families.
This topic has been discussed or at least mentioned in many group meetings all over Williams County, Ohio for a number of years, but very little has been accomplished to help solve this issue.
Different groups or businesses or individuals have tried to come up with solutions, and some have even stepped out and tried to help by building apartments or homes.
Unfortunately, the problem is so big and so wide spread that it always feels like just a drop in the bucket.
Another part of the problem is that there are so many groups and each one is “reinventing the wheel,” trying to determine how to get more homes available in Williams County, especially for the industrial employees.
Unity, instead of individualism, just might be the answer and the Williams County Port Authority is working hard to support and work with all other groups that are working on any areas that will fulfill this need, as well as actually building homes.
It definitely feels to them like everything is moving at a snail’s pace, as they would love to see 500 houses built over the next five years in Williams County, but they are willing to make it happen one house at a time.
They are thrilled that presently the construction is being completed on their very first “spec house”, which is a 1040 Square foot home, 25 feet wide and 40 feet long, but they were able to sell this one for $149,000.
For this first home, located at 503 Ohio St., Montpelier, they contracted with Andelynn Homes out of Pioneer and they have done a great job.
“Our builder built this house in just 60 days,” board member Sean Rupp said.
“We could pop ten or twenty a year if we could find the lots to do it.” And there’s the rub…The Port Authority needs residents of Williams County who have empty lots, to sell them to them so they can get them developed.
They have dropped off maps at the villages that show what looks like empty lots, and have asked that the village employees check and send them a list of empty lots.
Unfortunately, they also have to jump through all the legal hoops to build in some areas, but they are trying their hardest, as a group of real go getters, to get some more housing available in the county.
Rupp shared that presently they have another lot that they hope to close on soon, and will contract to get a house built there in the next year.
Even though they would like to be building many per year, they are rejoicing to even get one house done each year to get the ball rolling.
Their goal is to get enough grants and donations toward this that they will be able to sell a lot for $15,000 instead of $35,000 which is what they are presently.
The large companies in the area as well as Bryan and Montpelier Area Foundations are donating as they need housing for their employees.
So far, the villages and cities are saying they cannot put in the infrastructure for new homes, but the Port Authority is allowed to do this.
Rupp said he is trying to get that mentality changed as it would make sense for villages and cities to follow suit of what Holiday City is doing, taking on the infrastructure themselves.
They do have some hopes for lots in Edgerton, West Unity, Bryan and maybe Stryker, and, for buyers, they are targeting a specific group with a tax abatement as it helps to make the home affordable.
Recently, in the hopes of helping the community understand what it is that the Port Authority does, they worked on a written description of the Port Authority Housing Initiative.
Rupp explained that this is a document in the works and will be changing as they determine better ways to state their purposes, but at present it explains a lot, especially to those who have property that they might want to sell for residential growth in the county.
At present, this writing states:
“The Williams County Port Authority took up the challenge to help increase the number of homes available in the county for working people.”
“Our goal is to create housing available under $200,000 and encourage the building of more rental housing and senior housing in the county.”
“A WEDCO (Williams County Economic Development) study, done a few years ago, determined that Williams County has a shortage of housing across the board.”
“We find the most severe need is for housing to be affordable to average workers or senior citizens. That is the housing we will push to create.”
“Where and how we push will be based on our understanding of what is needed.”
Goals and needs:
Most of all we need builders! Over the last 15 years we have lost many contractors.”
“They moved away after 2008 or retired. Those remaining will focus their time where they can make the most money, $300k plus houses.”
“While a few people remain or have entered the “remodeling” business, they don’t seek this work.
” More building lots. To some extent these can be found in the inventory of existing lots in towns around the county.”
“These generally are in private hands. We will be asking the owners if they would be willing to sell.”
“To keep down the price of any house we might build, the price will have to be modest. There are also lots publicly owned of which we would be happy to make use. Reinvestment in older areas of the towns encourages remodeling and rebuilding.”
“In turn this will also increase the value of the entire community in the long term.”
“We also need new subdivisions to create new lots. The need for lots is particularly severe where the labor shortages are severe: Bryan; Holiday City; Montpelier and West Unity. Existing available lots cannot meet the need.
“A better contractor-bank money flow network. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to build a new house you found a contractor, settled on a plan, went to the bank and made a deal.”
“Then the banker knew the contractor and what he could expect, he knew the local housing market and enough about construction that he could make the loan, inspect the progress himself and he authorized payment on draws. The whole process was quick and efficient.”
“Today all he or she can do is administer several inches of paperwork for appraisers, inspectors, bank examiners, etc. No one would call it quick of efficient.
“The person who suffers the most from this is the small contractor who does not have a line of credit, multiple homes under construction and an administrator to deal with the bank.
“The person who pays for it all is the new owner. Build some homes to demonstrate and incentivize local contractors.
“The problems listed will take time to address. Right now, we need houses asap.”
“We will build them now and, in the process of building them, use that work to develop our local contractor base and improve the contractor bank relationship.”
“Build Senior Housing. Senior Housing in a useful volume can best be obtained through an experienced developer. We will seek appropriate sites and developers to provide low-cost senior housing.”
“There are other significant needs, but these goals are enough to fill our plate. Here is how we are addressing them:
Initiative #1 Grass Roots 1 Monroe and Ohio Street Montpelier
This is a short-term plan to immediately get new housing started. This will:
Start Developing our relationships with builders; develop banking relationships; and, housing is built.
“The first project is simple. We hired a local contractor to put up a new 3-bedroom home on an existing lot in Montpelier.”
“We started a banking relationship and developed a way to work with the bank, the contractor and us to complete the home.”
“We were able to get to market for $149,000 with a 15-year tax abatement on the improvement.
“The house is not quite complete but is already under contract to be sold. We think that the fact that the house was sold well before completion proves out point.”
To continue this initiative, we are actively seeking suitable lots around the county to repeat this process.
Initiative #2 Develop a large number of affordable housing lots (subdivisions).
“First, we are seeking existing lots across the County. This is a start but will not fulfill the need.”
“We are pursuing the development of subdivisions. However, this will be difficult. Cost of supplies is stopping the development of subdivisions throughout the county.”
“Two subdivisions have started and halted, two more have been designed and stopped. Two have actual bid costs or engineering estimates of cost completed.”
“These show that new subdivision housing lots cost $40-50 thousand dollars per lot to cover the cost of the roads, water, sanitary and storm sewer. The developer is required to put in at his own cost.”
“That means that even for a small subdivision of 20-25 lots the developer must pay for the ground and then invest $1,000,000+ before a lot can be sold.”
“Not surprisingly no private individuals have been willing or able to take that risk.”
“The average home built on a $40,000 lot, to pay for all this, needs to be sold for $250,000 and honestly $250-$300 is probably more the norm.”
“Our goal is to make homes available well under $250,000, which requires the lot cost to be closer to $20,000.”
“A frustrating side note: We have often been told to go to Columbus for state dollars. The state of Ohio does not offer any assistance for residential infrastructure, only new industrial.”
“The state wants to encourage (incentivize) more industrial buildings to be built to create more jobs when we are already struggling for employees, but won’t help to encourage new residents to move here or help us retain our young people by creating more places for them to live.”
“We calculate that, to have sufficient funds to bring the subdivisions already planned to completion we will need at least $2M.”
“We have gone to the state, county, the municipalities and the private business in the area and asked that they invest in helping the WCPA to push the completion of these subdivisions and create an environment that encourages housing to be built.”
“This will increase the population and the labor pool. Each of those entities, except the state, are working on what they can do to help, and committing resources to make it happen.”
“This phase is the most difficult, subdivisions are not being done by the private sector because it has significant risk and requires something dramatic to make it work. ”
“It is my opinion (Sean Rupp) that this area is where the port needs to focus. These subdivisions will allow the housing both single and multifamily to be created in a new development that could create up to 200 new lots over the course of the buildout and more if we can get some started in the surrounding communities.
“In the meantime, we will develop our contractor base and facilitate their banking relationships. We will also prove the concept by buying single lots, building and selling low-cost houses.”
“Having done those things we believe that, where lots are available for a reasonable cost, local contractors will purchase them and build the level of home that will sell there.”
Initiative #3 Senior Housing. “We are working with private developers who specialize in senior housing to create 40+ new senior living apartment in the county.”
“We believe many seniors are “trapped” in existing homes that don’t fit their needs, and desire for less exterior responsibility.”
“If we are successful in creating this new housing each couple that moves into a senior unit frees up a home that is probably lower priced than a new one and was set up to raise a family.”
“What a win win for the community. Provide the seniors better housing that fits their needs and free up homes for new and growing families in a price range they can afford!”
“If something can be done in this arena it’s the quickest way to free up some housing in the county that we can think of.”
Other observations. “The port was originally developed to support development efforts in the county, industrially, residentially and municipally.”
“We are a board of volunteers charged with finding ways to help encourage growth in the community. We are tackling problems that everyone talks about, but little has been done about.
“People don’t realize how significant the housing problem is. If we had adequate housing, we could fill the 2000 empty jobs here.”
“If we are truly short 2000 employees and assuming they make on average per year $45,000 per year that’s $90,000,000 missing from our local community on the consumer side.”
“Then think of what the employers are missing in profits. Then add in the impact of the capital expenditures locally required to make those people competitively productive.This is a huge issue and opportunity for the county.”
“There is often so much talk about what to do and how nothing ever happens to address problem. We are moving ahead as quickly and methodically as we can.”
“We are making attempts to educate and train new building contractors along the way to fill the voids left by so many who have retired in recent years while helping to prove that housing can still be built in the county with a mindful eye towards cost and profitability. With the help of some good community-minded people I think we can make a difference.”
“The village of Montpelier offers a 15-year tax abatement on improvements to property in the village, new or remodeled in an effort to increase investment in the properties without the immediate increase in real estate taxes.”
“Montpelier’s residential program has been used on at least 5 new homes built in the past year and one major remodel of an existing property that was in very poor repair.”
“These incentives to build housing have caused over a million dollars of new money to be put into housing in Montpelier. We want to encourage builders and homeowners to talk with the Village about the program and make new investments in the community.”
“Several communities in the county have these CRA programs available or are considering them.”
“I personally think it’s a great tool to have available to make the property more affordable for the buyer while they are paying for the home and it will be a long-term growth in value for the county, community and the school district.”
“It is our intent to seek out more vacant lots with infrastructure in place in the county and contract to have more of these homes built where there are affordable lots available.”
Rupp stated in a recent interview that if anyone who reads this article has property which they would be interested in selling to help the community have more available housing, he can be reached at 419-485-2500.
He will bring your interest to the Port Authority Board and they will get back with you asap.
Community growth is happening in Williams County and more available housing is an area that will not only help the businesses already here, but cause other businesses to see this as a place to build a company.
Rebecca may be reached at email@example.com