Coalition criticizes commissioners’ efforts on affordable housing

By June 16, 2011April 15th, 2014No Comments

May 22, 2001. The Columbus Dispatch.

More than 1,500 people asked Franklin County commissioners last night to spend more money on housing for needy families.

BREAD — Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity — organized the rally of church and synagogue members who literally put Commissioners Dewey Stokes and Mary Jo Kilroy on the spot. Stokes and Kilroy sat on chairs facing the audience at Veterans Memorial auditorium. Commissioner Arlene Shoemaker said she declined the invitation because she doesn’t agree with the organization’s tactic of “holding public officials up to ridicule.”

Franklin County commissioners last week announced that they would join the city of Columbus in creating the Columbus/Franklin County AffordableHousing Trust Fund Corp. The commissioners backed their commitment with $1 million to go along with the city of Columbus’ $3.2 million toward the housing trust fund this year. The $4.2 million fund is expected to leverage millions more in private and public dollars for initiatives to build affordable houses and apartments.

But BREAD’s position is that the county is not doing nearly enough.

“One million out of a $1.1 billion budget is not enough to scratch the surface,” said Dr. William Polley, BREAD’s co-president.

The Rev. Edward Benecki, pastor of Saints Augustine and Gabriel Roman Catholic Church, said that a joint city-county study has found that there are 43,000 low-income households in Franklin County where 50 percent or more of the family budget is used on housing costs. There is an immediate need in Franklin County to build 22,000 units to serve families making less than $29,500 a year, Benecki said, citing the same study.

BREAD brought witnesses to put a face on the problem. Joy Broadus, a preschool teacher, said she and her husband — and their six children — make ends meet on $33,000 a year. Working-class families have a hard time finding decent rental units, Broadus said. She said her son contracted lead poisoning in one rental unit they lived in.

“We work hard and should have decent, affordablehousing for our families. You as county commissioners have the authority to do something about it,” Broadus said.

BREAD wants Franklin County to contribute another $4 million to the new housing trust fund. Benecki suggested that the county raise the real-estate conveyance fee on all land transactions within the county by $1 per $1,000 of a home’s valuation.

Stokes and Kilroy both said they support efforts to spend money to meet the need. But Kilroy said that state law says it’s illegal to designate conveyance fees for specific uses.

Franklin County is one of only two counties in Ohio to specifically donate to a housing trust fund, Kilroy said.

Stokes said Franklin County, through its Department of Job and Family Services, provides a number of programs to help the needy.