Housing plan to identify Belen's needs

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The city of Belen will soon learn about the community's housing needs and have an implementation plan to begin addressing those un-met needs.

Housing Strategy Partners, specializing in affordable housing planning and policy development, is creating an Affordable Housing Plan, a five-year plan used to identify the housing needs within a community. The plan is projected to be completed by September.

The housing plan, required by state law under the 2007 Affordable Housing Act, will describe the housing needs within Belen, identify housing priorities for the next five years and delegate the direction of future housing projects, said Daniel Werwath with Housing Strategy Partners.

To discover Belen's housing needs, Housing Strategy Partners is creating a community profile with demographic, economic and housing characteristic information, along with compiling the Hub City's housing inventory and development feasibility.

The community profile will work side by side with a housing needs analysis, which will include information on the affordability gap of housing, a housing market analysis and projected housing needs.

"These all have implications for housing, because this is really going to affect the kind of housing that you would either build or try to increase the supply of," said Alexandra Ladd with Housing Strategy Partners.

A community survey, available on the city's website, City Hall, Belen Public Health Department, Belen Public Library and Belen Community Center, will provide another layer of information about living in Belen and residents' thoughts on un-met housing needs in the area.

"Really, you all in this community who are reading our plan, add dimension to it, because you can add context to it and we want to encourage any feedback you have for us," Ladd said.

For example, employers reported having a difficult time retaining employees, since employees couldn't find appropriate and affordable housing, Ladd said.

"It was a need they expressed and had a willingness to participate in home-buyer training and financial fitness, like having their employees take classes and bring in nonprofit trainers to educate employees," she said.

In the end, the AHP will consist of an implementation plan and steps that provide opportunities and constraints analysis and recommendations for financing, capacity, utilization of housing programs, real estate development and regulations.

Depending on the housing information, HSP may recommend promoting rehabilitation programs, seeking state or federal grants designed to address such needs, or create subsidized rental housing and home buyer training, Werwath said.

"We try to give you very thorough steps on logical ways to make some of this stuff happen," Ladd said.

The final plan, including specific project proposals, will be presented to the city council and sent to MFA for approval.

City administrators can then pass an AHP ordinance to designate city resources, such as land, buildings or financing, toward affordable housing projects, Werwath said.

A $25,000 Community Development Block Grant funded hiring the planning consultant Housing Strategy Partners to create the AHP, along with $2,500 from MFA and a $5,000 city match.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.