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Looking for Money to Build Affordable Housing? Location, Location, Location.

On February 12th, 2:30 and 5:30 pm public hearings will be held on affordable housing needs in Sioux Falls. The location is the Main Library, 200 N. Dakota Ave.

As communities struggle to deal with people whose income is not sufficient to pay market rents, many, like Sioux Falls, are putting local tax money into “affordable housing” projects.  Federal and State governments have been involved in subsidizing housing for years.

This year the City Council allocated half a million dollars to be used to help make affordable housing projects feasible for developers, and therefore tenants.

An evaluation committee was created to review proposed projects and make recommendations to the City Council on how much local tax money should be lent.

The Committee has created criteria, with points assigned, to evaluate and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals.

They have covered the bases, but in my opinion, have not given enough importance to one of the criteria:

 “Location, including proximity to public transit, major employers, full service grocery, and distance from other affordable housing.”

It is not clear to me what “distance from other affordable housing” means. The rest is obvious.

As I have come to understand the needs of people with economic struggles, transportation is a very close second to housing.

The Committee has decided to lend over half($350,000)of the money budgeted for 2014,  to a project which is very far away from jobs, commerce, and the city bus system. The location does have some housing around, but there are plenty of vacant fields and no signs of upcoming grocery stores, other shopping, and no places to work. Transportation officials with the city say it will be a long time before public transit will be available.

For the record, I am not against the city lending local tax money to assist with the housing problem in our community. I will leave it to others to argue against that idea. Also, others can theorize if folks got a better education, made healthy and smart personal choices, we wouldn’t have an affordable housing problem.

I do not know the proposed developer. From people I trust and respect, it is my understanding the gentleman is honorable, hardworking, and creative.

My concerns are not about him. The location is my concern. Affordable housing is nice. But it is only helpful to people struggling with money, if it is located near jobs, commerce, medical, and public transportation.

It is my hope the City Council and the Evaluation Committee will review the criteria and assign higher points to “location.”

I want the local tax money we spend on housing, transportation, and job creation to blend in a positive way to benefit those who need the help, and those of us who pay for it.          

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