MANSFIELD — Despite recent turmoil among members of the board, Mansfield Metropolitan Housing Authority executive director Steve Andrews said the agency is making unprecedented progress.

Andrews highlighted the agency’s accomplishments over the past year during an MMHA board meeting Wednesday. Those include the addition of 75 project-based housing vouchers and a 97.75 percent housing voucher utilization rate.

“Most authorities across the country are struggling even to get to 95 percent,” said Andrews, who joined the agency as executive director in July 2021.

“We have added staff and capacity to our authority that we have never had before. We are in the midst of undertaking a $27.8 million project that’s going to provide 120 new units of affordable housing to Mansfield. We have built partnerships and collaborations within the community, many of which have never in their history ever had a conversation with housing authority in their past.”

What’s the difference between the MMHA and the MLHC?

The Mansfield Metropolitan Housing Authority is public housing authority and political subdivision of the State of Ohio. The MMHA operates and administers subsidized, low-income housing in Richland County. Most of its funding is provided by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

According to its website, the agency administers up to 1,816 housing choice vouchers, 75 veterans assistance supportive housing vouchers as well as other programs funded through the Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership.

The MLHC is a separate, non-profit entity created by the MMHA. The MLHC owns Turtle Creek Apartments; the MMHA is the managing agent. All three members of the MLHC board are appointed by the the MMHA board of directors. 

During an MMHA board meeting Wednesday, deputy director Stephanie Hartzler said the demand for vouchers has been high this year.

“We’ve been issuing vouchers continuously,” she said. 

Andrews discussed renovations at Turtle Creek Apartments, a senior apartment complex managed by the MMHA and owned by the Mansfield Leased Housing Corporation. The apartments are located at 300 James Street,  near the intersection of West Cook Road and Lexington Avenue.

The MHLC board recently voted to increase rent for the Turtle Creek units to $625 per month, which will produce an additional $228,000 next year. Andrews said around $205,000 of the increased revenue will be used for renovations.

“All the main entryways that have not been updated for 45 years, all of those are getting new ceilings, new lighting in the ceilings, new walls, new flooring — they are going to look spectacular,” he said. “That work has already begun.”

All of Turtle Creek’s existing units are for senior citizens, many of whom are receiving housing assistance from the MMHA. Andrews noted that utilities, cable and internet are all included in the $625 monthly cost.

The agency is also planning to build an additional 120 housing units at Turtle Creek within the next few years. 

The Turtle Creek Extension project calls for 70 two-bedroom units and 50 three-bedroom units. All of the units would be low-income households, with 18 units reserved for families making 30 percent or less of the average median income and the rest for families making 60 percent or less.

The $28 million project will be funded in part through $5.5 million in bond gap financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which was awarded in October. The agency will also apply for a 4 percent tax credit in the spring.

Andrews said the local capital contribution to the project will be $1.5 million. The agency is working with the city of Mansfield to secure at least $500,000 in HOME Investment Partnerships American Rescue Plan Program (HOME-ARP) funding for the project. He also said the agency will pursue a $500,000 match from the Richland County Commissioners. 

During the first two years after the project is built, the agency would receive a total of $800,000 back in development fees. Over 15 years, developer fees, deferred developer fees and management fees would bring in $2.3 million.

Construction would begin after the 4 percent tax credit is approved, which Andrews said will be between September 2023 and March of 2024.

Adrian Ackerman, community development and housing director for the city of Mansfield, said the project is a first in the county’s recent history.

“The development that they are planning and the OHFA funding that they’ve already been awarded is something that we as a county have not been able to secure,” she said. “There has not been an agency in the area that’s had the capacity to secure that funding.”

Andrews said a $25,000 landlord incentive payment initiative from earlier this year was successful. In July, the board approved $25,000 for one-time payments of $500 each. In order to receive the incentive, landlords must agree to rent to a household with a metro voucher for at least 12 months. The payments resulted in 50 more privately-owned housing units being rented to Richland County residents receiving housing assistance. 

Andrews said the incentives pay for themselves because for each new unit, the MMHA receives a $700 administration fee from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

The board voted to approve another $25,000 for landlord incentive payments.

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