Lakewood Makes Commitment To Affordable Housing
A few weeks ago, Lakewood came under fire for its lack of solutions for low- and middle-income renters who are being pushed out due to the rising housing costs in recent years. While the article focused on the dwindling use of Housing Choice Voucher Program (aka Section 8), 289 in 2018 vs the 420 in 2013 (according to HUD data), it glossed over a lot of solutions the city offers. The city currently offers approximately 1000 affordable housing units with the assistance of all their programs combined.
Lakewood currently has seven action steps to address affordable housing:
Launch Rental Restoration Program Preserving Affordability
Explore Gap Financing for Rental Development Projects
Develop and expand on-profit partnerships with housing agencies
Provide more homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income households
Develop new affordable home construction
Connect property owners to resources and incentives
Conduct more outreach & advocacy to HUD and CMHA to improve effectiveness and service delivery of housing programs in Lakewood
While these solutions are still not enough to address affordable living for many families in Lakewood, members of Lakewood City Council state they are committed to creating solutions that will help residents. The passage of Resolution 2019-08 on Monday night added an eighth action step towards that commitment.
With unanimous support in City Council, Lakewood becomes the first city in Cuyahoga County to link tax abatement benefits to a development if they offer 20% of its units priced to affordability standards. The breakdown would be 10% reserved for tenants whose annual household income is up to 80% of area median income (AMI), and 10% reserved for tenants whose annual household income is up to 120% AMI.
“This won’t solve everything immediately, but it is a step in the right direction,” Councilperson Tristan Rader commented. “Having a system in place for the ‘missing middle’ will allow Lakewood to offer a solution to households usually just outside federal programs.”
The first three developments that are taking advantage of the new ordinance are the two Solove projects and One Lakewood Place. The former Barry Buick site will have 140 units, former Spitzer site will have 160 units, and One Lakewood Place will have 200 units. Between the three locations, there will be 100 units dedicated to affordable housing (20% of the 500 units).
“I think this sets up all three developments to be very successful providing affordable living to Lakewood residents,” explained Bryce Sylvester, Lakewood’s Director of Planning & Development. “Being on Detroit, they have easy access to public transit, quality grocery stores, and are in safe neighborhoods.”
Lakewood is not a city to use tax abatements often. Councilperson Dan O’Malley reminded everyone, “Lakewood has been able to achieve a lot of growth and development without doing tax abatements so attaching affordable housing to it is the key aspect that makes this the right solution for Lakewood.”
The Housing Committee and Planning & Development worked together utilizing different best practices in place in Columbus, OH and Seattle, OR. It needed to be city-wide, tied to residential and mixed-use structures, and needed to be of the same quality (no lower quality materials or separate entrances for affordable units).
“We want to make Lakewood a more accessible, diverse city. Hopefully the way this is written, we are able to chip away from any negative connotation associated with needing affordable housing,” suggested Rader.
“I believe this allows Lakewood to ease into providing more affordable housing, but this isn’t the end,” assured Sylvester. “This will cause more people to look at Lakewood; and as a city, we need to continue to be creative at providing affordable housing for our residents, even if that means coming up with a ninth, tenth, or eleventh action step.”
Brad Presutto - Lakewood resident since 2005