VOICES: We must do better on housing in Dayton

Eric W. Farrell is the C.E.O. of the Home Builders Association of Dayton. (CONTRIBUTED)
Eric W. Farrell is the C.E.O. of the Home Builders Association of Dayton. (CONTRIBUTED)

“You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river. Suddenly you hear a shout from the direction of the water—a child is drowning. You both dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore. Then, you hear another child cry for help. You both jump back in the river to rescue her as well. Then another struggling child… and another… and another. The two of you can barely keep up. Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water, seeming to leave you alone. “Where are you going?” you demand. Your friend answers, “I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water.” This is a public health parable, adapted from the original, which is commonly attributed to Irving Zola.

In Connections published by the City of Dayton, City leadership was quoted as saying, “when we learned we would be receiving $138 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, City leadership began working on a framework that aims to disrupt multi-generational poverty and health disparities in our city.” On June 2, 2021, The Dayton City Commission adopted a resolution to invest proceeds from the American Rescue Plan Act into six areas, and housing received the second most responses, indicating it was a high or moderate priority of 76% of respondents.

However, the City of Dayton moved to allocate only 5% of the $138 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds towards housing, even though a majority of citizens cite the urgent need to support housing and homeownership.

Louisville – 30% ARPA Investment in Housing

Our fellow citizens and elected officials in Louisville, KY get it. The City of Louisville Metro Council’s budget committee is considering an $80 million (of the reported $263 million allocated to the city under the American Rescue Plan Act) investment on affordable housing and home owner programs. The plan calls for $40 million to go to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to build homes and apartments, $32 million would help build permanent housing for the homeless, and there would be $4 million for down payment assistance.

Dayton – 5% ARPA Investment in Housing

City officials in Dayton need to stand up for housing and follow the lead of their counterparts in Louisville. Funds are urgently needed in our community to provide more quality housing options. Creating opportunities that encourage homeownership is vital to build a stronger, more stable community. There is a disconnect, as the allocated $7 million of the $138 million adversely reflects the cited priorities of the City’s constituents, representing an investment of only 5% of the ARPA funding available compared to the 30% investment the City of Louisville has pledged.

This reverts back to the opening sentiments of upstream effects – we have two examples of cities, one who views their upstream efforts with housing as an investment that compounds over time versus a city whose efforts reflect a line item with a short sited focus. In addition to it bolstering a community’s financial stability, research shows the many social benefits that housing provides, including increased volunteerism, improved health, and less crime. Additionally, home owners tend to buy more goods and use more services in their communities, further benefiting the economy. These upstream housing efforts require more influx of capital to make multi-generational differences.

Furthermore, these upstream efforts also provide a measurable economic impact to our community. An analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals the local economic impact that housing has on a community. The NAHB study shows that building 100 single-family homes in a typical local area adds $28.7 million to local income, provides $3.6 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments, and creates 394 local jobs.

Teachers, firefighters, policemen – and many others who make up the backbone of our communities – are finding it increasingly difficult to live in the cities and towns where they work.

We must do better, demand better, and the Home Builders Association of Dayton and our members are committed to being a part of the solution.

Eric W. Farrell is the C.E.O. of the Home Builders Association of Dayton.

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