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Welcome, all, thank you for being here on this beautiful afternoon in one of Bloomington’s newest neighborhoods!  We have a strong Habitat contingent here this afternoon, so I don’t have to ask whether you’ve been here before! Some of you helped build these houses, literally!

For those of you who may be here for the first time, this neighborhood -- called Trail View for its easy access to the B-Line Trail, just over there -- is Habitat for Humanity’s latest addition to Bloomington’s housing supply. This development, which is almost full, offers home ownership to working families through Habitat’s special model -- creating the community wide partnerships to build great homes at lower prices, for families who invest hundreds of hours of labor into building their house and others’, and qualify for a mortgage with an affordable payment plan.  

It’s a model that’s worked right here in Bloomington, and all around the country.  Since 1988, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County has built over 200 homes, housing over 700 people, including almost 400 children. That lets more people access the historically powerful way to build stability, wealth and opportunity for families across generations:  home ownership.

Habitat’s formula is a winning one, that is based on a lot of community support -- from individuals, like many of you here who’ve swung hammers and laid shingles, to corporate and governmental bodies.  We’re here today to announce and celebrate a partnership with Habitat that will continue the focus on building wealth and activating opportunity for around 50 more families to become homeowners in Bloomington.  

Together with Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, and private supporters you’ll hear more about soon, the City of Bloomington is pleased to announce the launch of a new Habitat neighborhood. “Osage Place” will be a community of around 50 homes, located on eight acres of undeveloped land on the southwest side of Bloomington, west of the intersection of Rockport and Rogers Roads.

Osage Place will offer homes for new residents who have household earnings between 25 and 80 percent of area median income. Osage Place will take shape alongside one of Bloomington’s established core neighborhoods -- Broadview -- and offer families a great location adjacent to RCA Park and just blocks from our City’s newest and most ambitious park property -- Switchyard Park.  This prime location will give residents a front row seat to the best of Bloomington -- the many free entertainment and recreational opportunities our City Parks department programs throughout the year, greenspace for socializing, fitness and recharging one’s batteries, and great connectivity through the City’s rapidly expanding network of trails.

This matters.  Housing affordability is directly related to transportation costs. If you live a considerable commute from your place of work, what you might save in housing prices can often be lost to the cost of maintaining a vehicle, not to mention the valuable time spent on the road. And dispersal of population leads to sprawl, increasing our carbon footprint and eroding our social fabric.

That’s part of why Habitat built this neighborhood, Trail View, just steps off the B-Line Trail and so close to downtown. At Osage Place, residents will be just a couple of blocks from the B-Line and with grocery stores nearby, and a short walk to South High School.  Bloomington Transit #2 Route runs along South Rogers. The B-Line Trail will give residents of Osage Place direct access downtown on foot, bike, or wheelchair, only a mile and a half from the downtown square. A new trail, part of the City’s Bicentennial Park Bonds, will take a diagonal off the B-Line in Switchyard, across Rogers Street, to RCA Park and proceed onward to Wapehani Mountain Bike Park, essentially creating connectivity from the far southwest corner of our city to its core.

To make all this happen, I want personally and directly to thank Habitat CEO Wendi Goodlett and the Habitat board for considering and embracing a model and program tailored to this collaboration with the city, to assure long-term and opportunities for successive generations of families to enjoy affordable housing in this new neighborhood.

In this Habitat community -- for the first time in our area -- the program will be structured so that at least half of the homes to be built will remain affordable for the very long-term.  That is, we’re assuring that most of these homes will serve several generations of families for whom this first step into home ownership can be such a transforming positive step. In specifics, if an original buyer chooses to sell the home before twenty years have elapsed, Habitat will buy back the home for sale to another household qualifying for Habitat programs. Once that second owner purchases it, the clock is reset for another twenty-year period of ownership. And so on for future generations of Bloomingtonians. If for some reason Habitat chooses not to purchase the home, the City will retain the prerogative to do so, selling the property, in turn, to another family appropriate for the housing.

And our partnership ensures that fifty percent of the homes in Osage Place remain within the Habitat program at least 30 years, and likely significantly longer. If that number falls short, Habitat will commit another house in their program to maintain at least that balance.    

The City is today announcing, in partnership with Habitat, our commitment to help launch Osage Place by helping fund the infrastructure improvements needed to allow home construction. Over the next two years, the City will provide 45% of the needed infrastructure costs, meaning, (I wish I had a big check to fill out here) up to $800,000. Besides Habitat and the City, it is very gratifying and so ‘Bloomington’ that private partners plan to step up and provide the remaining infrastructure investments needed. It takes a village to create a new neighborhood. This ambitious private-public partnership will boost our housing inventory -- and with it, quality of life for generations of working families.

As Bloomington continues to prosper, we must ensure that our residents do too. Those who live here already, those who are considering it from afar, and those who haven’t been born yet!  Bloomington is an attractive community that many hope to call home. Creating enough safe, decent, affordable housing for everyone who wants to do so will continue to challenge all of us in the years indeed decades ahead.  We must meet that challenge. We want to continue to be an inclusive, welcoming community. Partnerships like this one are essential to keeping that big welcome mat at our city’s front door. I am deeply grateful to Habitat -- your leaders, your board, and your army of volunteers, as well as the private partners stepping up, for your collaboration with the city to create the Osage Place neighborhood.  And with that, I give you my friend, and a great leader for Habitat and our community, Wendi Goodlett, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County.

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