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Thank you, Tina, and Efrat, for the update on the critical work you are doing to help coordinate our community’s substantial resources and expertise in the service of more housing for more people.  We convened the Housing Insecurity Working Group in the midst of intense challenges last winter at the height of the pandemic, but this group has clearly set our eyes on the long-haul, planning for major impact through partnerships among governmental entities, social service providers and others.  On behalf of all Bloomingtonians, we thank Efrat and Tina, and their respective organizations, and all their collaborators, for addressing this big challenge of housing insecurity.  Very Encouraged and Hopeful learning of their progress to date.

 

Numerous City staff have also dedicated themselves to address housing insecurity--you’ve just heard from two of them:  We are grateful for the strong leadership that BHA Director Amber Skoby--from whom you’ve just heard--offers every day on behalf of the many Bloomington families who live in public housing or receive Housing Choice Vouchers; and we are happy to learn that more of those critical vouchers will become available and more of our housing stock rehabbed.  

 

And we appreciate the great efforts of our Housing and Neighborhood Development Department and its director John Zody--and his recently retired predecessor Doris Sims. The new federal funding John Zody has just described will bring much-needed support for affordable housing and community development--especially urgent as we claw out of this pandemic and the economic crisis that accompanied it.  Thx to Biden administration and Congress….

 

Well before this pandemic we’re still dealing with, we were already facing an affordable housing crisis.  In Bloomington and around the country.  The pandemic made tough issues even tougher, and disproportionately for our most vulnerable neighbors. Job losses, child care quandaries, social services stretched thin.  For those living paycheck to paycheck, these struggles have a compounded effect--often producing or worsening housing insecurity.

 

As the pandemic tightened its grip around us in the early days, we had to act fast.  I convened our local philanthropic leaders -- two of whom we just heard from -- to lead a social services working group last spring -- to assess the community’s needs in terms of food, shelter, and childcare.  In this effort, I also want to thank Beverly Calendar Anderson, the Director of the Community and Family Resources Department, who has done tremendous work as the City’s liaison to this group, which has forged crucial relationships that continue to serve our community well.  Beverly has also been the City’s liaison to the coordinated efforts of our shelter and service providers, for whom the compounded effects of this relentless crisis are a daily reality. As just one example - the isolation shelter developed together served more than 270 individuals who needed to isolate or quarantine from COVID but didn’t have other options. I thank all of those who have worked together on all these challenges.  

 

With the pandemic and the economic recession ongoing, last summer my administration introduced “Recover Forward,” a multi-phase plan to help us emerge from the crisis, and build our community back with greater racial, economic, and climate equity.  With the city council’s support we implemented a wide-ranging $8 million plan, using our city’s reserves and reversions, to build back better, to help protect our safety net, support job growth, improve transportation accessibility and energy efficiency, the local food economy, and to help struggling homebuyers and renters, all with an overlay of improving our sustainability and our inclusion as a community.  We’ve seen lots of impact, and as just one example, as John Zody mentioned, just last month, the first homeowner to make use of a loan made available through the City’s new Shared Appreciation Homeownership Program moved into her new place.  

 

Recover Forward is our City’s way of stimulating growth in the depths of a downturn, being a countercyclical force. All this builds on the work my administration has undertaken creating or preserving over 900 units--or 1400 bedrooms-- of affordable housing over the past five plus years, the vast majority long-term affordable, for today’s and future generations.  --Places like SY Apts, Crawford Two, Kinser Flats, Union at Crescent, Southern Knoll, B-Line Heights, Retreat @Switchyard, and more. 

 

Other mechanisms have been deployed too  --UDO, zoning decisions   --housing support for police officers living in the city, and    --acquiring land directly to advance affordability, such as around Switchyard Park, the current Hospital site, and the 17th Street Trinitas development.

 

Even so, we know that challenges remain, every day, for so many of our neighbors. We need more progress. More help. We live in Indiana’s most expensive housing market. But Everyone deserves a home. We are so very glad to see that, like Bloomington did last year, President Biden has proposed the strongly countercyclical American Rescue Plan Act. With a little bigger bang from the federal government. The 22 million dollars Bloomington is receiving directly through ARPA can be transformative for Bloomington.  And worth noting the county received nearly 29 million dollars. Where the recent crisis has compounded struggles, this over $50 million one-time investment for our community is a unique chance to pursue opportunities.  

 

In joining with other announcements today, I want today to announce certain plans with regard to the city’s share of ARPA. Today I'm announcing my intent to ask the city council to dedicate a substantial portion of our ARPA allocation -- multi-millions of dollars -- to new, one-time investments in housing. In at least three categories:

  1. As a response to and prevention of homelessness; focusing on the Housing First model, wrap around services, permanent housing focus, 
  2. Affordable rental housing supports; to help those struggling to juggle rent, transportation, health care, job demands, child care, family care, and so much; and 
  3. Affordable home ownership supports; to help families build stability and wealth over time, in the special ways that home ownership can…..

 

I will ask the council to view all of these potential investments through two lenses: sustainability and inclusion. How can they help us meet our climate responsibilities and be the sustainable city and families we want to be?  And how can they enhance diversity and equity in our community -- assuring that everyone belongs and knows they belong. 

 

These proposed new investments will build on those we’ve made through Recover Forward, and at the same time, we’ll consider new ideas and new collaborations, some of which have been discussed today.  For example, we may look to using these funds to expand voucher programs, or sponsor a community land trust, or create a landlord risk mitigation program to increase access to more local apartments.  

 

ARPA one-time funds offer a 24-30 month investment period. Begin in July, for proposals for investing yet this year during 2021. And then in the annual budget process, August to October, for 2022. You’ll notice I did not specify exact dollar amounts today. Multi-millions. All of this ARPA opportunity, need to balance with other needs. But we look forward to hearing more suggestions for specific ideas (public input) And we look forward to continuing to partner with our community’s housing sector and social service agencies who bring their specific expertise to these challenges. We look forward to partnering with the county to leverage our respective allocations further--together.

 

The pandemic and its wider fallout have been a rare calamity -- not seen in a century -- but because of extraordinary opportunities like ARPA, we are in position to take unique actions together, addressing housing insecurity in unprecedented ways as a community. Everyone deserves a home. Now is the time to use our imagination. Our compassion. Our creativity. And our collaboration. To make some big things happen in the coming months. 

 

Many thanks for joining us today. We are happy to take questions.


 

 

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