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HOME Consortium budget includes funding for rental housing rehab

Program administered by Parkersburg, used throughout county

Parkersburg City Councilman J.R. Carpenter, front, speaks during Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting at the Municipal Building as council President and committee Chairman Zach Stanley listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The proposed 2021-22 budget for the Parkersburg-Wood County HOME Consortium includes a major boost for a new program aimed at improving rental housing.

The HOME Consortium is administered by the City of Parkersburg but serves all of Wood County, including Vienna and Williamstown. Its proposed budget was reviewed Tuesday night by City Council’s Finance Committee.

The HOME budget includes $325,911 for the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund program, which was initially funded with approximately $56,000 in fiscal year 2019-20. The plan was to roll it out in the spring of 2020, but it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program would provide low- or zero-interest loans to owners of residential rental properties for repairs while requiring them to rent to income-eligible tenants for at least five years or the term of the assistance.

“In the City of Parkersburg, 40 percent of our housing, roughly, is rental property,” said Ryan Barber, development projects administrator for the city.

Parkersburg Development Projects Administrator Ryan Barber speaks during Tuesday’s City Council Finance Committee meeting at the Municipal Building as City Clerk Connie Shaffer takes notes. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Councilman J.R. Carpenter said the program appears more beneficial to landlords than tenants.

“The actual monetary value of the improved structure goes back to the landlord at our expense,” he said.

Mayor Tom Joyce said that while city officials have traditionally tried to encourage home ownership over rental, the goal of the federal funding for the consortium is to provide safe, affordable housing for low-income people.

“I think the reality is we have a lot of rental housing that could use some help,” he said.

Joyce said he understood Carpenter’s reservations but prefers providing assistance while structures can be rehabilitated over acquiring them for fair market value via eminent domain, demolishing what’s there and selling the lot for a fraction of that cost.

“It’s innovative,” Joyce said of the program. “I think we should give it a shot.”

The HOME budget also provides $131,472 to the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program, which provides up to 24 months of assistance with rent and utility costs for low- and very-low-income households.

Federal guidelines require at least 15 percent of HOME funds to be used to build new affordable housing in the county with a community housing development organization. The local entity is Habitat for Humanity of the Mid-Ohio Valley, which is budgeted to receive $86,000. Another $40,000 is allocated for the city’s related administration costs.

Although no additional funds are in the proposed budget, Barber noted there is $151,000 from previous fiscal years allocated to the consortium’s Down Payment Assistance program, a grant for eligible homebuyers that does not have to be repaid if they remain in the house for a specified amount of time.

The proposed 2021-22 Community Development Block Grant budget, which was also reviewed Tuesday, includes $50,000 for the city’s Minor Home Repair Program, which is open to homeowners at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income, and $8,000 for the Emergency Home Repair Program for income-eligible homeowners to remedy health and safety issues.

The committee voted 5-0 to refer the HOME and CDBG budgets to the full council. They will be considered at the May 11 meeting, following a 30-day public comment period. The budgets will be available on the city’s website at parkersburgcity.com. Barber said people can also request that copies be sent to them by mail or email.

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