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Senate Select Committee on Housing releases report findings, recommendations

Written on Apr 26, 2024

Provided by Hannah News Service 

After 35 hours of listening to testimony from more than 200 witnesses across Ohio, the Senate Select Committee on Housing announced April 24 its findings and provided 23 recommendations the General Assembly should look at to fix the current housing crisis in Ohio. 

Members of the Select Committee on Housing present included the chair of the committee, Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Columbus), along with Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware).  

Statistics on housing in Ohio, shared by the committee, show that of the total occupied housing units in Ohio about 67% are units that the occupant owns, and 32% are rental properties. The data also show that over 415,000 housing units in Ohio are vacant. 

Reynolds said this is not something that Ohio can ignore anymore, and that the state needs to act amidst the growing crisis. This includes providing consumer protection for renters and homebuyers, providing alternate forms of housing and rethinking ways to invest in current housing resources. However, Reynolds said the state should not be interfering with business and the free market. 

Out of 23 recommendations from the select committee, Reynolds highlighted recommendations for an Ohio Housing Dashboard and the Ohio Housing Toolkit. 

According to the report, the Ohio Housing Dashboard would be “a centralized platform to increase transparency in Ohio’s housing market.” Reynolds said this will allow for data on Ohio housing to be tracked, so that trends can be identified. 

Also highlighted was the Ohio Housing Toolkit that aims to help local governments gain access to resources like templates, models, best practices and expert guidance. The committee believes this will help cities streamline the development of new housing units. 

“Like many urban departments like the city of Columbus and the city of Cleveland, they are backed up with building department applications, and sometimes it takes the better part of two months to get an application through. That’s government getting in its own way,” said Reynolds. 

Other recommendations include the Ohio Housing Accelerator, which aims to increase and fund innovative forms of housing like modular and manufactured homes, tiny homes and accessory dwelling units. Another is the Ohio YIMBY Campaign, which stands for “Yes In My Backyard,” aiming to promote Ohio as a pro-housing state. 

Blessing said increasing the supply of housing will increase competition and observed that there’s more significant demand today than there was 15 years ago, referring to home sharing companies like Airbnb. 

“If you do not have housing provider competition, you’re not going to have rents coming down, which is what happens when you have competition,” said Blessing. 

Brenner said making zoning changes will allow for homebuyers to make a valuable return on investment when buying a house instead of renting. 

“We’ve got low value housing in East Cleveland, parts of Cleveland, where you can invest money into these houses, but you're not going to be able to get the return on investment unless it’s a rental. So, there’s got to be a change,” said Brenner. 

Reynolds also talked about how transaction transparency will help provide renters with information that will help them make decisions by incentivizing out-of-state LLCs to be upfront and honest about their actions. 

Members of the committee introduced four new bills that Reynolds said stem from the report: SB243 (Reynolds-Craig), which addresses zoning regulations; SB244 (Reynolds-Craig), which deals with the property tax and Residential Stability Zones; SB245 (Reynolds-Craig), which revises housing laws; and SB246 (Reynolds-Craig), which renames the Department of Development the Department of Housing and Development. 

Huffman said the recommendations all have different timelines, so some may take weeks, and some may even be achieved over the next few years. 

The Select Committee on Housing recognizes that these changes cannot happen overnight, but the members say that the work has already begun. 

The full report is available for download. 

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