LIMA — If there’s at least one major takeaway from the City of Lima’s housing study presented Monday night to Lima City Council, it’s that there’s a lot of work to be done to revitalize Lima’s housing stock.
Doug Harsany, of Harsany and Associates, presented some of the bright spots in his findings first. Compared to many Rustbelt cities, Lima has a decent population of young people primarily due to a healthy offering of post-secondary educational institutions, such as Rhodes State College, The Ohio State University-Lima and the University of Northwestern Ohio. Jobs are also available in the region with a high percentage of people in the work force.
At the same time, Lima’s housing challenges are abundant with many neighborhoods dealing with blight and run-down rental units due to lack of private investment. Harsany highlighted the age of Lima’s housing stock as much older than that of many other cities with 12.3% being built in the last four decades. That age is partially why the average worth of a Lima home, $66,000, is also significantly less than the United States average.
Other red flags include high and rising rental and vacancy rates throughout the city.
While much of this information isn’t new to many city residents, Harsany made the point of connecting Lima’s housing issue directly with the larger economic picture of the city. While unemployment rates are low, the average income in Lima is also much lower than the national average, and Harsany said that creates an additional problem for housing developers.
Normally, increasing the quality of housing raises rental prices, but with the average income on the low end, any increases in quality will most likely need to be done without major gentrification pushing residents out of neighborhoods. The other related option is to increase incomes.
“You’ll need to work at both sides of that problem to come up with good solutions,” Harsany said.
As for action items resulting from the study, a total of 21 recommendations with timelines and plans of action are laid out by the study. Lima City Council had little to say about which recommendation they would like to see at this time, but the study will be going forward to the Community and Economic Development subcommittee for further deliberation.
In related housing news, at least one private investor made his intention known at the City Council meeting Monday. Lorenzo White, brother of football star William White, spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting to talk about how the two men are looking to create more affordable housing in the south side of Lima. Councilors gave accolades to the two Lima natives for stepping up at a time when private investment is needed.
In other news, Public Works Director Howard Elstro introduced council to plans of a potential park that may be created just north of the Lost Creek neighborhood. Elstro said due to the planned housing development at the former Lost Creek Golf Course, 45 acres have been made available to the city, and plans are in the works to create a wetland area interspersed with running and biking trails. The $1.5 million project, if grant dollars are awarded, would also help with flooding in the area, Elstro said.
The complete Lima housing study can be found online at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.