Special housing coming to Xenia

By Scott Halasz shalasz@civitasmedia.com

April 15, 2014

XENIA — More than six years of work is paying off for Housing Solutions of Greene County.

The agency, which manages affordable housing units for homeless individuals receiving behavioral health services in Greene County, held a ground-breaking ceremony for a Columbus Place, new six-unit apartment building in Xenia on Monday. Work will officially begin in May and will be completed and leasing by December. Tenants will include those who have persistent and severe mental illnesses.

“You can’t recover … without a place to shower and put your head at night,” said executive director Rhonda Baer.

The building, on approximately half an acre at the corner of Market and Columbus Streets just outside downtown, will offer housing for those “right off the street,” Baer said. There is already a waiting list approaching 50.

The project began as the dream of several entities and went through some modifications to meet city code. Originally the plan was for 15 units, then eight before Baer settled on the current configuration.

“Zoning fought us tooth and nail,” she said.

In addition to concerns about the number of units on the parcel of land, the city required two off-street parking lots with at least one covered garage. Baer said the tenants don’t drive and if they have a vehicle they are most likely living in it.

City Planner Brian Forschner said the city wasn’t trying to be difficult, just uphold its code.

“We have a requirement in our zoning code that any time you build mutli-family housing, at least half of the parking spaces for the units need to be in enclosed garages,” he said. “Whether it’s this type of housing, no matter what the age group. It’s just a blanket requirement.”

Nonetheless, Baer was excited to see ground break for what she called “state-of-the-art, safe and secure” housing.

“I believe in what we do,” Baer said.

The project is being funded by a combination of loans and grants, according to a release from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison counties. Housing Solutions of Greene County currently manages 18 units for the Mental Health And Recovery Board.