By City of Oak Ridge
On November 6, 2015, the Oak Ridge Land Bank Corporation, in conjunction with the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, hosted the second Housing Strategy Work Session. The purpose of this meeting was to identify willing partners in the effort to improve housing quality in the City of Oak Ridge.
As a result of this collaborative meeting, feedback was gathered from six identified stakeholder groups, each having their own perspective on what needs to be done and what they could do in addressing the city’s identified housing challenges.
The participating stakeholder groups offered the following input:
- Identify HUD properties that are foreclosed by other lenders. HUD maintains a database (HUD Home Store) of foreclosed properties that is available and searchable for those that have knowledge and skills to do so. One this information is obtained for the Oak Ridge community, the identified properties can be pursued more aggressively through direct communication with the lien holder(s). Depending on the unique situation of each property, there is potential for property donations, reasonable purchase offers, or other partnership arrangements to acquire control of that property.
- Provide creative financing options through local financial institutions. A separate meeting will be organized with local financial institutions and community organizations to determine ability to arrange loan participations, direct lending arrangements or low income borrower programs.
- Meet with Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) to identify programs that might be suitable to the ORLBC. A separate meeting will be organized with representatives of FHLB—Cincinnati; local financial institutions and community organizations to ascertain the availability of government programs to fund the purchase or financing of distressed properties. It will be important to include local representatives who have knowledge and experience with the FHLB programs.
- In conjunction with lending institutions and government programs, the use of Broker’s Opinions and multiple prepackaged financing options made readily available to assist low- to moderate-income home buyers in the city.
- In conjunction with builders/developers and lending institutions, prepackaged home designs that meet specific neighborhood requirements at various construction price point options.
- ORLBC and other organizations that acquires and banks contiguous properties in neighborhoods or other residential areas work together to create new development opportunities for housing that would appeal to moderate income and first time home buyers. Realtors along with partners should collaborate on how best to market the city and its housing options.
- Oak Ridge does have vacant lots in partially developed neighborhoods that is ready for new homes, but the elevated price points and restrictions on these lots generally discourage first-time home buyers and moderate-income customers. Redevelopment in established neighborhoods with multiple lots together ready for new modern housing options in a price range that low to moderate income can afford is desirable. Additionally, identifying commercial and retail projects that will attract younger working families into the city.
- Incentive-based development with a more streamlined process in both development site review and construction process. Continuously seek ways to improve processes and programs that will attract new contractors and developers into the city to for both residential and commercial projects.
- Engage and invite successful developers, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and other economic and community development agencies into the city to review current and potential development options. Seek partnerships and cooperative projects with these industry leaders.
- City of Oak Ridge needs to work with USDA for Rural Development in coordination with Census Urbanized Areas and MPO/TMA Designations data to increase community development opportunities that do not otherwise exist in the city.
- Oak Ridge Land Bank Inc. needs to take a more central role in building relationships among other nonprofit organizations and development corporations. Continually engage homeowner associations to aid Lank Bank goals and policy shaping. ORLBC should become the leader in the community for housing education and training.
- Oak Ridge Land Bank should be empowered through state legislative amendments to increase its ability to address vacant and abandoned/foreclosed properties. Establish the practice of using the ORLBC to actually “bank” properties while taking necessary steps to quiet title so that properties can be marketable to partners and community.
- Restructure Oak Ridge Housing Authority as necessary to do more than just managing housing voucher properties. Possibly hire an assistant director if necessary to work with the City of Oak Ridge and the Oak Ridge Land Bank as empowered by T.C.A. 13-20-104 to actively address ongoing housing challenges faced by the community as a whole.
- Oak Ridge Land Bank must establish a partnership with Anderson and Roane County through intergovernmental agreements and tax foreclosure processes to ensure the continued viability and growth of the Land Bank’s function itself. The Oak Ridge Land Bank must educate Anderson and Roane County officials to what the Land Bank mission is and how being a partnering jurisdiction will benefit not only the City, but the surrounding communities within these counties.
- Increased code enforcement activity and authority. The number one tool to prevent blighted neighborhoods is citizen education and continued efforts to instill a sense of community pride. When this fails, code enforcement must be empowered to act quickly and have the political support to actually enforce adopted codes. A weak code enforcement program is one of the primary enablers for blight to get out of control and become a virus that creates unhealthy, unhappy communities.
- Change the perception and narrative of the City of Oak Ridge. The city has a unique past, but it cannot simply rely on its history to pave the road to its future. The city must partner with every possible source of media, civic groups, religious affiliations, and professional organizations to spread all the positive factual opportunities and assets that many people do not realize.
- Need more affordable modern housing in the $100,000-$180,000 price range that provides accessible public areas, greenways, community gardens, reduced on-street parking situations, public transportation, effective code enforcement, rental and vacancy registration, neighborhood watch, and employer support of living and working in Oak Ridge.
- Harness volunteer opportunities. There are many volunteer options already in place, but there are very few being promoted that directly benefit the neighborhoods as a whole. The city and the Land Bank cannot simply rely on homeowner associations (which do not exist in many locations) to be the champion of neighborhood volunteer projects. A central coordinated effort to customize neighborhood based projects using the input from all participating stakeholders is essential for the success of volunteer efforts.