Local lawmakers want $20M fund for post-tornado rental housing help

Three state representatives want to set up a fund to assist Ohioans displaced by natural disasters — such as the Memorial Day tornadoes that hit the Dayton region — with replacement housing.

Republicans Jim Butler, Rick Perales and J. Todd Smith are sponsoring a bill to create the Permanent Replacement Housing Program to spur construction or renovation of rental housing and help displaced renters find housing until they can move to newly prepared permanent housing.

The bill, which has yet to be introduced, calls for allocating $20 million from the state general fund that would be used to subsidize rent for Ohioans displaced by natural disasters. The subsidies would be for both temporary housing as well as for up to 10-years in rental properties constructed in neighborhoods hit by disasters, such as tornadoes or floods.

Related: With thousands of buildings unlivable, tornado survivors seek alternatives

Butler, R-Oakwood, said Federal Emergency Management Agency funds often help property owners, leaving a gap in assistance for renters who scramble to find affordable, temporary housing and later find that the rents on re-built units are out of financial reach.

Administered by the state treasurer, the Permanent Replacement Housing Program would provide subsidies for displaced renters within disaster areas, the lawmakers said. The subsidies would be targeted to cover the difference in what the renter paid pre-disaster and post-disaster. The state would work with developers to re-build rental units in disaster areas with the promise of rent subsidies for up to 10 years for their tenants.

Rental subsidies would not be tied to income or go beyond areas hit by disasters, said Perales, R-Beavercreek.

Fifteen tornadoes touched down in the Miami Valley on Memorial Day and the early morning after. An EF-4 tornado with winds up to 170 mph traveled 20 miles causing the worst damage locally through low-income neighborhoods with older homes.

Though estimated in the thousands, it remains unclear precisely how many people were displaced by the damage. However, the Dayton Daily News has learned that many of those people have found housing elsewhere, or found temporary respite with family or friends. Others are staying in hotel rooms or homeless shelters, or some have continued to tough it out inside the damaged shell of a residence.

Thirty-nine percent of Montgomery County households rent their homes.

Related: Tornado survivors without means to rebuild in ‘limbo’

Of the 6,305 individuals or households in the 11-county disaster area that applied for FEMA grants, 4,933, or 78 percent, have received denial letters.

Marcus Roth, spokesman for Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, said the bill is encouraging but he has yet to see the details.

Related: Thousands more denied than awarded FEMA grants

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