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Subsidized-housing criticism answered
Subsidized-housing criticism answered
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
Geauga County Commissioner Tracy Jemison is among those responding to some recent criticism that the county is encouraging "subsidized" housing and apartments for low-income residents from other counties.
Among the critics, Ralph Spidalieri, who won the recent Republican primary for county commissioner and will be on the ballot in the November general election, has said, "Government-subsidized housing is spreading throughout the county, increasing concerns of drugs and crime. I say no to government-subsidized housing."
Mr. Jemison said, "The truth needs to be known. The record should be set straight."
Judy Zamlen-Spotts, of Chester, cited the Casa Lucia housing project for senior citizens in Middlefield in criticizing the use of tax dollars for "subsidized affordable housing."
Habitat for Humanity projects also have been targeted.
Mr. Jemison said the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity organization is building home ownership, and it is not paid for by the county. "We want to strengthen the community, and home ownership makes the county stronger," he said.
"We need a work force that is close, and they need places to live," Mr. Jemison said. "These are hand-ups, not handouts," he said of Habitat.
Christine Bucknell, development director for Geauga Habitat for Humanity, said the organization receives allocated funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "It's not coming from county funds," she said.
Habitat's goal is to make families self-sustaining through affordable home ownership, she said. As homeowners, they pay mortgages and taxes, she said. "They are contributing to the community in which they live, and no one is coming from outside the county. Every single person is from Geauga County," she said of Habitat homeowners.
Habitat Executive Director Betty Kimbrew said, to qualify for the affordable housing, the owners must live in Geauga County for a year. They take part in credit counseling and homeowner workshops, preparing them for expenses involved in home ownership, she said.
"We work with them every step of the way," Mrs. Kimbrew said. They are approved, and they receive help in looking at finances, she said. "This gives them an opportunity to live the American dream and not take advantage of government programs."
Ms. Bucknell said the formula works. "It instills a sense of pride, commitment and responsibility through sweat equity, paying back a mortgage and working with an army of volunteers," she said. "Their mortgage pays it forward and helps us fund future Habitat homes."
Geauga County Administrator David Lair said Geauga County Commissioners have approved Community Development Block Grants for Habitat homes. There are guidelines, including income levels, for the grants to Habitat of up to $20,000, he said. The funds are administered through the federal HUD program, he said.
Mr. Jemison said the 34-unit Casa Lucia apartments for seniors, which are being built next to St. Lucy Church in Middlefield, received some subsidization but not from the county.
The county approved the annexation of land for the apartments from Middlefield Township to Middlefield village, he said. "That was the only involvement, and we gave a community block grant to the village to install sidewalks in the area that include the Glen Valley subdivision."
The apartments would not be there unless there the community wanted them, Mr. Jemison said. "Senior housing is going to be in demand as people downsize," he said. "These are our friends and neighbors. Some have lived here all their lives."
Maryellen Staab, director of housing development for Catholic Charities Housing Corp. in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, said the Casa Lucia senior apartments are drawing from the entire county. The building is due to be completed by June 1, and rents range from $530 to $570 monthly, she said.
The Catholic Charities Housing Corp. bought the land from St. Lucy's and is the developer and managing owner, Ms. Staab said. The primary source of funding came from the affordable housing tax-credit program administered by the state, she said. "A grant from the Ohio Department of Development and a first mortgage completed the funding," she said. "No money from the county was used for the apartments."
Mr. Jemison also noted that the county has no involvement with the Geauga Metropolitan Housing Authority Housing, which is a federal agency that provides apartments for qualifying low-income residents.
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