XENIA — Low-income housing could be coming to downtown Xenia.
The city on Thursday applied for a grant from the US Department of Housing and Development (HUD) that will help renovate the floor above 19 and 21 E. Main Street into affordable housing. That’s the location of longtime business Xenia Shoe and Leather, owned by Tim and Lynn Sontag.
“We’ve been looking all year, for different ways to invest in downtown,” said Mary Crockett, community development coordinator for Xenia. “It could be a great draw.”
If HUD chooses Xenia, four housing units would be developed above the business. The grant would be for $500,000 with another $115,000 coming from the city in the form of a loan. Only one is funded nationally each year, but city staff feels the project is tailor-made for Xenia as only cities with populations fewer than 50,000 and with 100 or less units of public housing within their city limits are eligible.
“I think we stand a really good shot at getting it,” Crockett said. “(A HUD spokesperson) told me they only get a handful of applications each year. It’s a hard grant to write.”
Among the items HUD considers are capacity to do the work, need for affordable housing, readiness and financial and program management. HUD will also look at other downtown activities — such as the new city administration building project — when making a final decision.
While the grant has a 48-month timeline, Crockett doesn’t foresee it taking that long, if Xenia is awarded the money.
“I think we’ll do it all at once,” she said. “The same systems would have to be built in (each unit). It’ll get done much quicker, I think.”
If awarded, the grant would help continue to the revitalization of downtown.
“It shows everyone that the City of Xenia is very much dedicated to seeing housing choices for people in downtown,” Crockett said. “Like many other cities, we’re realizing in order to have the kind of vibrancy we want, it’s not just about retail, its not just about government buildings. It’s about people living there. I think these are going to rent up fast.”
The application process was approved by city council as an emergency to meet HUD’s deadline. Councilmenbers John Caupp and Dale Louderback said they were concerned because it was presented as an emergency and questioned if it could have been presented to council earlier. But City Manager Brent Merriman said the city did not find out about it until mid-July and it did not appear on his desk until early August, making the non-emergency process impossible.
It passed 6-0 (Council Vice-President Josh Long was absent).
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said councilmember Jeanne Mills.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.