(PRESS RELEASE) Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade, Edgerton Mayor Robert Day, and Edgerton Administrator Dawn Fitzcharles represented Williams County at the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Housing in Lima on Monday.
The group discussed various housing issues that are important to the Williams County area, while also learning more about how other communities are handling similar challenges.
It was a great opportunity for our representatives to share insight into new ideas for addressing local and state housing needs, as well as get an understanding of what is happening around the state with regards to these issues.
Dawn Fitzcharles, the Administrator of the Village of Edgerton, and the Vice-Chair of the Williams County Port Authority, shared the following testimony.
Chair Reynolds, Vice Chair Johnson, and members of the Senate Select Committee on Housing:
“Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony that may be helpful as you explore solutions to Ohio’s housing availability and affordability crisis.
My intent today is to express housing needs, the impact of those needs in our county and state and our frustration with the current approach and process to address those needs.
Williams County, population of 36,000, has roughly 18,000 workers that are largely goods-producing, which puts us at 2.8 times the national average.
The goods-producing category encompasses manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. There are 32 employers in Williams County with more than 100 employees, 16 of which are in the manufacturing/goods-producing industry.
The largest employer is Menards Distribution Center in Holiday City near the Ohio Turnpike. Total manufacturing employment in the Williams County manufacturing sector is 4.5 times the national average.
According to the US Census’ Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, 50% of persons employed in Williams County lived outside the county, and commute to Williams from surrounding counties in Indiana and Michigan. Our location is prime with Fort Wayne, Indiana’s second largest city, and Toledo within 45-60-mile distance.
In the past decade, Williams County did not get its fair share of renter household growth in the region, which resulted in a loss of approximately 140 renter households.
A healthy rental housing market has a vacancy rate of 5%, allowing for internal mobility and growth from persons looking to move into the area.
The vacancy rate among market rate properties remains below 1% and has been so for at least the last five years.
In 2018, Williams County completed a Housing Opportunities Assessment to identify housing opportunities and strategies to facilitate housing development within the county.
The Housing Opportunities Assessment identified that the renting market of Williams County can support an additional 300 to 450 housing units, and “displays all the tell-tale signs of a housing market poised for growth.”
Typically, the county builds no more than 15 new units per year. A housing study completed in 2023 showed that today, the county could sustain 300 rental units, and the numbers above discourage investment in our county and surrounding area from existing business and new business.
Ohio has expended large sums to attract new businesses, but we believe that we are failing to cultivate and grow the business already located here.
For several years Williams County’s workforce has been severely short of our industry’s needs. We are very fortunate to have several homegrown industries that have created much of this demand for additional people.
However, due to our lack of housing, those companies have been stymied in their growth, and it is believed that current manufacturing could support an additional 2,000 employees.
Due to this need, our local industries are beginning to look to locate elsewhere, out of state, to grow their business.
We believe that the County and the State are losing because of this. Our problem is perpetuated by both the demographic of our population and the makeup of the jobs available here.
According to code section 26 U.S.C. §42(m)(1)(B)(III), housing credit agencies like OHFA are required to offer preference for “…projects located in qualified census tracts… and the development of which contributes to a concerted community revitalization plan…”
OHFA’s preference for projects located in qualified census tracts (QCTs), and the fact that there are none in Williams County, severely impacts our county’s ability to participate in the competitive tax credit program.
To understand the impact of this housing shortage on the workforce, the needs of employers must be considered in the solution of the housing crisis.
A significantly larger proportion than average of the Williams County population is engaged in manufacturing, the need for workers is less elastic and the composition of our workforce is not “average.”
Companies such as Spangler Candy Co., known for the famous Dum Dum, are highly automated. The use of automation and robots is the norm in our county. Employers using these technologies need younger workers to grow with automation.
The state has invested very significantly in our local educational institutions, transportation networks, brownfield remediations, and business expansions, and for that we are incredibly grateful.
We ask for consideration of the housing shortage that impedes our ability to retain students in our local workforce.
We encourage the state to evaluate opportunities for residential programs that consider availability of jobs and workforce composition.
The Department of Development is authorized to administer programs to pay developers to build industrial buildings to attract new companies.
We believe that a similar approach should be considered when addressing the issues of workforce housing.
Williams County has formed a grassroots effort to help ourselves, which is why I am testifying today. Our group has raised more than a million dollars locally to support workforce housing.
With these funds, we have constructed 10 homes this year, and plan to construct 25 homes in 2024. We are in need of senior living and multifamily development and have made multiple attempts to secure developers. They all want the same thing: the tax credit.”