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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Expanded housing fund proposed as Toledo considers including county

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A proposal presented yesterday to Toledo City Council would expand the Toledo Housing Trust Fund to include Lucas County as a partner - hopefully, a partner with some money to contribute.

A goal of some members of the trust fund board is to get the Lucas County commissioners to increase the county real estate conveyance fee from $3 for every $1,000 of a property's sale price to $4, and use the revenue to promote market-rate housing.

Two members of the county commission yesterday endorsed the creation of a joint fund, but said they haven't agreed to raise the conveyance fee. The third member said she would oppose such an increase.

Council briefly discussed the legislation to replace the city-only fund with a joint city-county fund yesterday. Councilman Michael Ashford called for a public hearing on the legislation before it is brought to a vote.

The housing fund would provide incentives for market-rate housing in lower-income neighborhoods.

Currently, the only money available to support housing is from the federal and state governments, and the funds are limited to assisting families that earn less than 80 percent of the area median household income.

"It's important that we have a flexible resource that is not limited by federal restrictions," said Hugh Grefe, chairman of the existing Toledo Housing Trust Fund.

He said the fund would help reverse the city's population decline, especially among middle-income people.

Legislation establishing the Toledo trust fund in 1999 set a goal of a fund of $1 million to be created, and specifically recommended a conveyance fee increase.

So far, the fund has been limping along on the $50,000 it receives annually from revenues from the city's parking garages.

A $1 increase in the conveyance fee would generate about $800,000 a year.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the county commissioners, said cooperation of the city and county on a housing trust fund is a good idea. But she said the commissioners have made no commitment to raising the conveyance fee.

Fellow Democratic Commissioner Pete Gerken said he has committed to the county making a startup grant of $50,000 to the trust fund.

"[Housing advocates] would like to have a steady revenue stream. We're not to that point yet," Mr. Gerken said. "We've had many groups come to us over the years asking for an increase in the conveyance fee."

Maggie Thurber, the Republican member of the county commission, said she opposes increasing the conveyance fee.

Mr. Grefe said Franklin County recently boosted its transfer fee to the permitted $4, which is expected to generate about $3.5 million a year for new housing.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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