LIMA — The accelerated decline in home ownership in Allen County during the past decade must be addressed by local stakeholders, a local development official says.
“The decline in housing conditions is a major concern that I have, it may not be a concern of others, but to me it is a problem because it is the largest investment that most households make,” Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Thom Mazur said after presenting a draft report regarding impediments to fair housing to the Allen County commissioners. “We saw a drop in the home ownership rates between 2000 and 2010, largely tied to the municipalities where most of the older housing stock is — Harrod, Lafayette, Spencerville, Lima, Delphos.”
“I believe that much of it is tied to employment opportunities and issues relative to the conditions of housing stock,” he told The Lima News. “The report suggests that we need to look at multiple fronts. We need to make sure that lower income, especially minority, have access to the FIRE sector — finance, insurance and real estate services.”
Between 2000 and 2010, unemployment rose from 4.4 percent to 10.6 percent, reaching a high of 11 percent in 2009, according to the study mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
During the same time frame, owner-occupied housing units dropped in the county by 2.7 percent, or 781 units, and even more in Lima, where the rate decreased 14 percent, or 1,227 units. The number of housing units in Allen County experienced a 1.7 percent rise, or 754 units, between 2000 and 2010, while the number of housing units in Lima decreased 4.8 percent, or 847 units.
The report examines a list of potential regulatory barriers and other impediments.
“Impediments are considered institutional such as banks and financing, loan access to financial services, access to realtors and brokerage services,” Mazur said. “It also would reflect zoning and subdivision regulations that would make affordability an added factor that we would have to contend with. We examine those impediments relative to services, information or exclusionary zoning.”
The report tries to make correlations between these factors and the number of housing units within a specific area.
He explained the report “provides baseline measures, quantifiable measures for anybody who is invested the housing sector.”
The report identified several areas which need work by the city and the county as well as members of the local stakeholders including coordinating and implementing a fair housing plan, providing education and outreach and creating county-wide residential building and property maintenance codes.
The report also advises efforts aimed at fair lending and credit practices which should address predatory lending practices, real estate professionals should be reassessed as to their commitment to Fair Housing Act principles and “smaller ‘mom and pop’ landlords should be targeted for fair housing education, information and technical assistance.