Marysville News

Responding to study

Strategic plan will aim to tackle affordable housing


United Way of Union County is working with other organizations to complete a strategic plan to address affordable housing in Union County.

Shari Marsh, United Way of Union County executive director, said a 2011 needs assessment study found housing to be the main issue that human services groups need to be aware of in Union County.

Marsh called the affordable housing issue "a toughie."

"The big monster that is in this report is the affordable housing piece," she said. "You have to be real strategic. You can't plow ahead with a plan to put in housing without having all the entities that need to be brought in, brought in."

The issue is difficult, Marsh said, because affordable housing brings negative pictures to mind for many people.

"I don't think it necessarily means subsidized housing and I don't think it means free housing," she said. "I think it means something that people who are working in the jobs we have in the community can afford and pay their own way.

"We do have a strategic plan for the affordable housing initiative and we are going to be moving forward on that one," Marsh said.

The strategic plan includes establishing an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. Members include the city of Marysville, Community Action Organization of Delaware, Madison and Union Counties; the Salvation Army: Heart of Ohio Homeless Shelter; the Union County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development; the Union County Department of Job & Family Services; the Hope Center; Mental Health & Recovery Board; Maryhaven Inc.; the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the United Way of Union County.

The group has identified the strengths of affordable housing in Union County as well as the challenges. It also has identified the committee's core beliefs and values, which include a commitment to quality, equality and responsibility.

Over the next two years, Marsh said, the committee wants to achieve several goals. They are:

* to define what "safe and affordable" means.

* to develop the structure of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and identify stakeholders.

* to educate residents and stakeholders about the need for affordable housing in Union County.

Anyone interested in helping the committee should call Rochelle Dennis-Twining at Community Action Organization of Delaware, Madison and Union Counties at 937-642-4986.

"Our biggest obstacle is to get the will of the powers that be in the community to take a look at this and I think that's coming," Marsh said.

"And the other is community acceptance and community awareness of what we're talking about. It needs to be variety housing."

Marsh said they must consider what is affordable for people working at lower-income jobs.

Marsh said United Way is more than a human services organization; it also raises funds to send to human services organizations and she wants to make sure that money is being used to deal with targeted needs in the community.