Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…

On Monday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County’s board chair Meredith Rogers addressed a gathering of about 50 people for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Osage Place.

It’s a 69-house project just east of RCA Community Park, which is getting built in two phases.

At Monday’s event, held at the western stub of Guy Avenue where the pavement ends, it was evident from the mounds of dirt and the deep gravel, that the first phase of construction is already underway. The infrastructure is being put in place for the extensions of some east-west street stubs.

Rogers framed her remarks by talking about hope. “Creating the hope of a better future for our partner families is what Habitat for Humanity is all about,” Rogers said.

Habitat houses are built with volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. The houses are then sold to low-income families who make between 25 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Rogers continued, “Habitat provides that feeling of expectation or desire of a decent affordable place to call home.”

For Rogers, Monday’s groundbreaking was not the time to stop, but to continue hoping.

Rogers said, “There is still so much work to be done. The need for affordable housing is greater than ever.” Rogers added, “Habitat needs your help to continue creating the hope of a better future for our partner families.”

She wrapped up with four lines from Emily Dickenson: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all.

Continue reading “Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…”

Future housing in Bloomington to get boost with 28 emergency vouchers, $2.25M in federal funds, “multi-million dollar” request to city council by mayor

At a Tuesday press conference held on the back porch of the Bloomington Housing Authority’s community center on Summit Street, some new information was announced about support from the federal government for local housing programs.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, also announced that in July he’d be making a request of the city council to support housing initiatives, through an extra appropriation for the 2021 budget year.

The mayor’s request will be for a “multi-million dollar” investment of Bloomington’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Bloomington’s total amount of basic ARPA funds is around $22 million.

In other news announced on Tuesday, Bloomington Housing Authority executive director Amber Skoby said BHA is one of 700 housing authorities across the country that is receiving 28 new emergency vouchers. The vouchers are for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee domestic violence or who were recently homeless.

The emergency vouchers will be available starting July 1.

The city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) director, John Zody, prefaced his remarks by noting that last year Bloomington had received $250,000 in additional CDBG funds, to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zody announced that another $650,000 in pandemic-related CDBG funds will be made available for applications starting next week.

An additional fresh set of housing funds was announced by Zody. Bloomington will get an additional $1.6 million through the American Rescue Plan.

The money can be used specifically for the preservation or production of affordable housing, tenant-based rental assistance, supportive services including homeless prevention services, and housing counseling, Zody said. No final guidance from the feds on the use of the extra $1.6 million has been provided, Zody said.

Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Tina Peterson (Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County) and Efrat Feferman (United Way of Monroe County) gave an update on their work to build a coalition to establish needed collaboration and coordination for the countywide area, to create a sustainable strategy to reduce housing insecurity and prevent homelessness.

Continue reading “Future housing in Bloomington to get boost with 28 emergency vouchers, $2.25M in federal funds, “multi-million dollar” request to city council by mayor”

Tax abatement for affordable housing project next to new park to be weighed by Bloomington city council

By December 2022, Bloomington is expecting to see completed construction of Retreat at the Switchyard, a new housing project with 48 apartments designated as affordable.

The project is a 64-unit, 5-story building with first-floor retail space at the 1.5- acre site of the former Night Moves building on South Walnut Street, next to the new Switchyard Park.

To help the project along, Bloomington’s city council will be considering a resolution at its regular meeting on Wednesday that will take the required steps to give the project a tax abatement.

The resolution would set up the relevant parcels as an economic revitalization area and would approve a 10-year abatement schedule that would waive a total of $154,370 in taxes.

The first year’s abatement would be 100 percent of the taxes owed. That percent would ratchet down over a decade, so that $175,690 in taxes will have been paid by the end of the abatement period.

Next steps, after Wednesday’s expected council action to adopt the resolution, include a public hearing that’s set for June 16. The June 16 hearing will be followed by a city council vote to confirm, amend, or rescind the resolution adopted on June 2.

Another step, before construction can start in August on Retreat at the Switchyard, is a site plan review by the city plan commission.

Also at Wednesday’s city council meeting, a report will be heard on compliance for eight other tax abatements previously granted by the city council. Continue reading “Tax abatement for affordable housing project next to new park to be weighed by Bloomington city council”

Bloomington plan commission meets on Kmart redevelopment: “Yes, it’s better. But is it good?”

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s plan commission voted to continue the proposed redevelopment of the Kmart property on East Third Street to its second hearing. That is now set for June 14.

The outcome of Monday’s vote was not exactly hanging in the balance, because the 900-bedroom housing project does not include a rezone request.

That means its approval by the plan commission is “by right”—if it meets the standard conditions required in the MC (mixed-use corridor) zoning district. It also means that the project does not need approval from the city council. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission meets on Kmart redevelopment: “Yes, it’s better. But is it good?””

Potential affordable housing encore for Kohr hospital building takes another step

The aerial photo of the Kohr Administration Center is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

At its regular Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission voted to greenlight the formalization of a deal with a potential affordable housing developer for the Kohr Administration Center building, which is a part of the IU Health hospital on 2nd Street.

The potential developer is a group represented by Brinshore Development, Bloomington Housing Authority, and Springpoint Architects, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley told RDC members on Monday. [Added April 22, 2021 at 9:23 a.m. Rottman Collier Architects is the co-architect in the project group.]

The city of Bloomington will be getting control of the Kohr building in the context of a $6.5 million real estate deal, which calls for Bloomington to take over the whole hospital property on 1st and 2nd streets in 2022. That will come after IU Health moves operations in late 2021 to its new facility, which is currently under construction on the SR-46 bypass.

The question of formalizing a Kohr building deal was put to the RDC, because it’s the public entity responsible for approving tax increment financing (TIF) district funds, which are being used to purchase the hospital site from IU Health.

The RDC’s approval to go ahead and draw up a formal arrangement, will put the group in a position to meet this year’s July 26 deadline for an application to the federal low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, to help finance the project. Awards through the program are due later in 2021, Crowley said. Continue reading “Potential affordable housing encore for Kohr hospital building takes another step”

Change to Bloomington tax abatement policy swaps in capital investment for job creation, making it easier to justify affordable housing projects

A change to the city of Bloomington’s tax abatement policy, approved by the city council on Wednesday last week, will make it easier for affordable housing projects to satisfy abatement criteria

The change replaces the basic criterion for tax abatement. In the previous policy, the basic requirement was that the project create full-time, permanent living-wage jobs.

In the revised policy, which won unanimous approval on Wednesday night, the basic requirement is creation of capital investment as an enhancement to the tax base.

Job creation is still a part of the mix for tax abatements. But it has the same status as two other criteria, listed under the basic requirement about creation of capital investment: significant increases to existing wages; and creation of affordable housing units. Continue reading “Change to Bloomington tax abatement policy swaps in capital investment for job creation, making it easier to justify affordable housing projects”

Bloomington design element requirements for residential buildings could be abolished by state legislature

A state house bill that could have a potential impact on Bloomington’s zoning code is making its way through the state house.

The mage is from an elevation from The Standard at Bloomington, a 1,000-bed student-oriented housing development that got site plan approval from the city plan commission in early February, 2021.  EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System) is not allowed for residential use in some Bloomington zoning districts, but is allowed in others. Bloomington’s regulation of EIFS would be affected by HB 1114.

In early February, on an 8–5 vote, HB 1114 was passed out of the committee on government and regulatory reform.

The key sentence of HB 1114 states: “A municipality shall not regulate design elements of residential structures.”

Applying the bill’s definition of “design elements” would have an impact on the kind of design elements that appear in Bloomington’s unified development ordinance (UDO)

It would mean Bloomington could not enforce some aspects of its basic local law on land use.

If it is passed, HB 1114 could affect the upcoming debate by Bloomington’s plan commission, followed by the city council, on revisions to the citywide zoning map and amendments to its text ordinance.

HB 1114 would still need to achieve a majority in a floor vote in the house, and approval by the state senate, to become state law.

State representative Matt Pierce (D), responded to a question about the bill at a legislative update on Saturday, hosted by the League of Women Voters Bloomington-Monroe and the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Pierce said it might have hit a “snag” because it may have encountered some opposition in the Republican caucus.

Speaking at the same legislative update on Saturday state representative Jeff Ellington (R) indicated the bill is not dead, “First to the middle of the week, there’ll probably be, I heard, maybe some amendments to make it a little less aggressive.”

Many of those who oppose the bill, like Pierce, see it as an encroachment on local government control. Those who support it, like Ellington, say it will allow more affordable housing to be built.

How could HB 1114 affect Bloomington’s upcoming local rezoning debate? Continue reading “Bloomington design element requirements for residential buildings could be abolished by state legislature”

99-year affordable housing deal to build about 60 new apartments at Bloomington’s Switchyard Park entrance

 

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The April 20, 2020 image was extracted from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system.

If all the financing falls into place, a planned five-story building with up to 60 new apartments and 3,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space will start welcoming new residents to the entrance of Bloomington’s Switchyard Park off Walnut Street sometime in the summer of 2022.

Part of the financial puzzle was solved for the developer, RealAmerica Development, LLC, when Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved a $1 purchase agreement for the real estate. The unanimous vote came at the RDC’s regular Monday meeting.

The RDC had bought the property a couple of years ago for $800,000, which was the former location of the Night Moves strip club.

Asked to comment on the disparity between the purchase price and the appraisal the RDC had obtained on the property, city controller Jeff Underwood said it was understood the RDC would not get back the fair market value on the land deal.

The proposal from RealAmerica might not have been the biggest fiscal proposal that the RDC had received through its request for information (RFI), Underwood said. But it had all the other attributes the city was looking for, he said.

What was Bloomington looking for? Affordable housing. For a long time and for a lot of people. Continue reading “99-year affordable housing deal to build about 60 new apartments at Bloomington’s Switchyard Park entrance”

Bonds for first step of Bloomington’s public housing conversion get final OK from city council

At its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously to approve the issuance of up to $11 million in economic development notes to support the renovation of Bloomington’s public housing stock.

The bond issuance approved this week was for rehabbing two of the three Bloomington Housing Authority (BHA) properties—the Walnut Woods and Reverend Butler sites. BHA’s executive director, Amber Skoby, told the council that planning will start this summer for similar work on the third BHA site—the Crestmont Community.

“After that’s done, we won’t have any more public housing in Bloomington,” Skoby said.

Councilmember Steve Volan’s reaction conveyed amazement: “Does that mean you won’t have a job? I don’t understand.” Continue reading “Bonds for first step of Bloomington’s public housing conversion get final OK from city council”

UDO Update: How payment-in-lieu of building affordable housing could still be in the mix

The first two days of the Bloomington city council’s work on amendments to the unified development ordinance update were dominated by two contentious questions.

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Screenshot of extracted transactions for Bloomington’s housing development fund from the city’s online financial portal.

Should duplexes and triplexes should be allowed in core neighborhoods? Should accessory dwelling units should be subject to the conditional use public process?

Both questions related at least indirectly to the issue of the availability and affordability of housing. The council chambers were packed each night.

The following week, the council’s docket started off with another amendment related to the affordability of housing.

Sponsored by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Amendment 08 changed the planned unit development (PUD) qualifying standards, by eliminating the option for a developer to donate a sum to the city’s housing development fund, instead of building income-restricted affordable units on site as a part of the project.

PUDs are projects that depart significantly enough from existing zoning standards that they require their own custom zoning, which means that unlike by-right projects, they have to win approval from the city council.

The UDO update builds a 15-percent affordable housing requirement into the qualifying standards for a PUD. So elimination of the payment-in-lieu option means that the only way a PUD could be approved without including affordable units as a part of the project is through waiver of the PUD qualifying standard.

Judged by the smattering of attendees at the following week’s meeting, and the council’s 8–0 vote, the amendment on payment-in-lieu (PIL) for PUDs was not controversial.

But the council’s decision was disappointing to the city’s administration. Responding to a query from The Beacon, Bloomington’s communication director, Yaël Ksander, said, “The City plans to work with Council to suggest they reconsider PIL as a viable option…” Continue reading “UDO Update: How payment-in-lieu of building affordable housing could still be in the mix”