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Seneca County facing housing ‘crisis,’ Montz tells commissioners

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Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership (TSEP) President and CEO Aaron Montz delivers remarks during a Seneca County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday, March 30, 2023. (Screenshot via Seneca County Commissioners / Facebook)

Tiffin, Ohio — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners heard from Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership (TSEP) President and CEO Aaron Montz and DiSalvo Development Advisors (DDA) President Pete DiSalvo about the results of a countywide housing study Thursday morning.

Montz began the presentation by describing the housing situation in the county as a “crisis,” adding that there is a serious lack of housing units at almost any price point.

The commissioners agreed to fund the plan in November 2022, at the urging of Montz, who said the city of Tiffin worked with DDA on a housing plan in 2019. The 2019 plan has outdated information, Montz said, and it only focuses on the city of Tiffin. That plan however stated that Tiffin alone has a need for 450-550 housing units.

“If we want this done, we will have to work together locally to do this,” Montz said in response to the housing situation. “No ‘white knight’ developer is going to come in to build the hundreds of houses that we need. I didn’t realize how bad it was.”

DiSalvo shared several interesting statistics, comparing Seneca County to neighboring counties within the region. He said the county has the lowest share of housing built since 2000, while also leading the region in the highest share of pre-war housing. From 2010 to 2020, the county actually has 188 fewer habitable units. This is a concerning trend, DiSalvo said.

Growth in the number of households from 2010 to 2020 was about 1.1 percent in Seneca County, lagging behind the regional average of 3.8% and the state average of 4.5 percent.

Montz said the county has consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of economic development projects for several years in a row, but in order to continue bringing jobs and investment into the community, the county needs more housing options.

The study states that the county has the demand and potential market to support between 65 and 85 for-sale newly constructed housing units per year.

“All of this demand needs supply,” DiSalvo said.

In 2021, 41 single-family building permits were issued, following years of 23, 24, 23, 28, 24 and 31. Back in 2009, there were 53, but the chart shows a mostly steady decline in construction of these housing units.

DiSalvo said the top four challenges for housing developers in the area are the lack of a conventional sewer system, land being difficult to find, generational changes among builders and the carrying costs being too high.

DiSalvo said he and his team will continue working with Montz and county leaders to enact thoughtful strategies now that the plan has been developed. Some potential strategies include becoming a development partner/holding company, expanding and creating sewer districts and establishing tax abatements for developers and homeowners.

In other action, the commissioners agreed to sign a letter of support for a pending budget amendment being proposed by State Rep. Gary Click’s office. The proposal would lead to the creation of a Medicaid Supplemental Payment Program for ground emergency medical transportation service. Programs like this are already active in several other states.

County officials believe the legislation could have a positive impact on agencies like Seneca County EMS. The letter states, “many EMS agencies, including Seneca County EMS, face significant financial challenges due to low reimbursement rates and rising expenses. These challenges can make it difficult for agencies to maintain their operations and provide the level of care that our residents deserve. The establishment of a supplemental payment program for eligible ground emergency medical transportation service providers will provide much-needed financial assistance, allowing these agencies to continue providing high-quality care to our community.”

Commissioner Anthony Paradiso said more information about this is to come in the following days.

Also during the session, the commissioners held public hearings for the potential vacation of two pairs of alleys in Springville and Alvada in Big Springs Township. At the recommendation of County Engineer Mark Zimmerman, the board agreed to table the decisions until a legal survey could be completed. Zimmerman said he had not heard any opposition to the potential vacation of the alleys, but he said past precedent is to complete a legal survey before making a decision.

No date has been set, but the new public hearings for these potential vacations will be advertised and announced soon.

In new business, the commissioners approved:

  • A $4,889.11 supplemental appropriation to the Unclaimed Funds Fund – Unclaimed Money Trust Line.
  • Setting time, date and place to receive sealed bids for the CR 62 pavement repair project.
  • Authorizing the commissioners to sign a satisfaction of mortgage through the Community Housing Improvement Program.
  • A contract with Great Lakes Demolition Company for Superstructure Replacement – Prestressed Box Beams.

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