County directs ARPA funds to affordable housing


By Les Morris

The need for affordable housing in Hamilton County is real, and with the assistance of The American Rescue Plan Act, county leaders are addressing the issue.

The Hamilton County Commissioners and Hamilton County Council plan to set aside $5 million for affordable housing from ARPA funds. Projects will be identified by the Hamilton County Housing Coalition.

“The need is very real,” said Amy Massillamany, a member of the council’s APRA committee. “Many of our neighbors and friends here in Hamilton County have financially struggled over the course of the pandemic. We owe it to them to use this funding to provide them with more housing security.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman said a family whose annual income is $81,000 can only afford 6 percent of listings and new construction in Hamilton County. Many families who make much less. Altman said her review of the numbers reveals more than half of the county’s largest occupations by employment pay less than $20 an hour, at best approximately half of that annual $81,000 figure.

“We’ve got to find an overarching solution that is inclusive for our teachers, police and firefighters, positions that we don’t pay a lot of money to but that we definitely need,” Altman said.

Two different federal programs are involved. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program provides grants to fund construction, buying or rehabilitating of affordable housing for low-income households. The National Housing Trust Fund increases and preserves the supply of affordable housing for those same households. Both rental and ownership options are included in the programs.

Half of the $5 million being allocated to affordable housing projects is earmarked to come from the current round of ARPA funding, with the other half allocated from the next round.

Altman said the money will be spent wisely.

“We want to make sure we invest that money in things that will change the dial for Hamilton County,” she said.