In the words of one Springfield Community Development Department official, “the city needs jobs.” More than 50 percent of the city’s residents are low- or moderate-income; the overall poverty rate is 17 percent. In addition to those caused by subprime lending and mortgage fraud, Springfield’s vacancies have increased as major employers have closed their doors, the job market has remained stagnant, and wages for jobs that are available are low. Foreclosures continue to be high in all areas of the city.
Foreclosures are dispersed throughout the city and have peaked and ebbed at different times in different sections, areas of need have changed, but areas receiving funds have not. In addition to this geographic scattering, city officials have also been largely unsuccessful in identifying and contacting out-of-state owners of vacant REO properties.
Springfield’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program plan tailors strategies to fit the condition of the housing stock and the health of the neighborhood real estate markets. Most of the wood-framed housing stock, built before 1950, is worn or obsolete. In neighborhoods close to Clark State University and Wittenberg College, where the housing stock is in better condition, the city plans to use NSP funds for purchase rehab and resale. In blighted areas, the city plans to use NSP funds to demolish housing in order to add green space by splitting newly vacant lots among existing neighbors, and to build affordable rental housing.
The city has only three staff to implement the NSP, as well as other HUD programs. Said one official, “It’s been difficult to implement a new program with a new framework and perspective in a relatively short period of time,” and with little training.
Through a new collaboration with Fannie Mae, the city has successfully negotiated the purchase of some REO properties. Springfield is home to two major educational institutions, Wittenberg College and Clark State University, which, together with the Turner Foundation, have invested in revitalizing the small but charming downtown with façade and infrastructure improvements. The city plans to team up with another major anchor—a local hospital—to further revitalize this area of the city by leveraging the schools’ investments with NSP II funds.
Housing Program Coordinator