Germantown Village Provides Infill Affordable Rental Housing in Dayton
Workers put the final touches on the front yards of houses in Germantown Village, which opened in late 2013. Image courtesy of Michaels Development Company. Dayton, Ohio faces high rates of vacancy and blight, the result of a major loss of manufacturing jobs over the past several decades that have reduced the city’s population to 140,000 – about half of what it was in 1973. Today, nearly a quarter of the city’s residential properties are vacant, and vacancy rates in some areas have reached nearly 40 percent. Foreclosures and subprime lending, exacerbated by the recession, have also plagued the city for more than a decade. Because many of these vacant properties are blighted, the city badly needs affordable rental housing in good condition, which is evident by the long waiting list for public housing.
Germantown Village, a new development in the city’s Innerwest neighborhood, meets the city’s need for modern, affordable housing in an area that can be stabilized with infill development. The developers worked with more than 20 private owners to clear titles and acquire and raze blighted properties on 4.5 acres. As a result, the new development, which opened in late 2013 and was fully leased shortly after, also addressed one of the city’s key goals: returning blighted and foreclosed vacant structures to productive use.
The Acquisition Process
Greater Dayton Premier Management, the city’s housing authority, and developers Michaels Development Company and the Model Group spent three years acquiring the properties that ultimately became the site of Germantown Village. Working with the housing authority to assemble an entire block, the developers had to contend with 46 individual parcels. The properties were acquired through private sales and through the city’s Lot Links program, in which an unoccupied tax-delinquent property can be purchased for about $2,000 for rehabilitation or new construction. In addition, the city gave the developers of Germantown Village all lots that it held, charging them only for the cost of transfer. The developers razed the seven buildings that stood on the site, building around a property with a barbershop, whose owner did not sell to the developers. The infill project also required a zoning change to allow multifamily housing on the site.
Acquiring abandoned parcels, demolishing substandard buildings, and assembling properties for redevelopment are part of Dayton’s strategy to reduce vacancy rates in the area. Before the Germantown Village project, the vacancy rate in this and an adjacent neighborhood, which the city analyzes together, was 35.8 percent. By 2012, after the Germantown Village site had been purchased but not yet constructed, and following a similar project in the adjacent neighborhood, the area’s vacancy rate had fallen to 19.1 percent. “Between these two projects, we were able to significantly impact the vacancy rate, help to clean up these neighborhoods, and refresh them for future development,” says Amy Riegel, community development manager in Dayton’s Department of Planning and Community Development. Scott Puffer, vice president at Michaels Development Company, says that Germantown Village’s success has proven the demand for affordable rental housing in the neighborhood. As a result, the developer is considering building an additional two or three phases of housing that will help ensure the neighborhood’s stabilization.
Then-Mayor Gary Leitzell (holding scissors) participates in the grand opening of Germantown Village, offering modern affordable housing in Dayton’s Innerwest neighborhood. Image courtesy of Jim Doyle of Larry Peck. Germantown Village consists of five 2- and 3-story buildings containing 60 apartments, which are evenly split among 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. Fifteen of these are public housing units, and 45 have project-based vouchers. Twenty-four units are set aside for households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI) for a family of 4; 30 are for those earning no more than 50 percent of AMI; and 6 are for those earning 35 percent or less of AMI. In Dayton, the qualifying income levels are approximately $36,100; $30,100; and $21,100 a year, respectively, for a family of four. The development’s income restrictions will remain in place for 30 years.
Each unit includes energy-efficient stainless steel kitchen appliances as well as a washer/dryer, ceiling fan, and microwave. Puffer adds that each home has two entrances, which was one of the developers’ “main design goals: from the front, residents can watch the streets; from the back, they can see their children playing in the playground” located in the middle of the block. The apartments have front doors a few steps from sidewalks along the public streets, and parking is located behind the units. “We’re hoping that [this design] translates into a community that has a significant amount of pride in its living environment,” says Puffer. Germantown Village also includes a community center, a community garden, and walking paths. Designed by CR architecture + design, the project is meant to respond to the historic character of the nearby Wright-Dunbar neighborhood, once home to the Wright Brothers and to Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of the country’s first African-American poets and novelists whose writing received national attention.
The project, a public-private partnership, cost $12.8 million. Approximately $8.7 million was raised through the sale of low-income housing tax credits purchased by UnitedHealthcare and U.S. Bank’s U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. Approximately $1.25 million came from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2, and $340,000 came from HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds. The project also received $1.25 million in Replacement Housing Factor funds from the housing authority.
Need for New Housing
Despite Dayton’s reduced population and high vacancy rates, the city still needs affordable housing that is in good condition. To address that need, in 2013, Greater Dayton Premier Management received $5.6 million from HUD’s Capital Fund Program to renovate and modernize its public housing stock. In addition, newly constructed affordable rental housing such as Germantown Village will help stabilize Dayton’s neighborhoods, which is considered a key step toward preserving the city’s viability in both CitiPlan 20/20 and Dayton’s consolidated plan for 2011–2015.