The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has announced that it will make $180,000 available to the Miami Development Authority to assist the City of Miami with its housing needs.
Miami's community grant coordinator Larry Eller and economic development director Brian Barger traveled to Oklahoma City Thursday and hand-delivered the city's application.
Prior to the July flood that displaced hundreds of Miami residents, Eller was already seeking funding opportunities to help the city out of what he said was a “serious” housing shortage.
“We realize there is a tremendous need for housing,” Eller said. “That need has been aggravated by the Picher buyout and now the flood. The need for housing is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Eller said Thursday's promise of a 1-percent interest loan from the state financing agency is a “step in the right direction” for the city which is now experiencing a housing crisis.
According to data collected by Eller over the past 10 months, Miami has a growing labor force and a declining unemployment rate - but it also has a projected reduction in population and an aging housing market.
“More houses are being demolished than are being built,” Eller said. “We need to change that. Our goal is to get more homes built, bring affordable housing to Miami and get residents out of the floodplain. We never want to experience this kind of flooding again. We want to disaster-proof this community.”
Prior to the recent flood, Eller had determined that Miami had a housing deficit of 436 units.
“Now, we have to add 200 to 300 to that number,” Eller said. “It is safe to say that we are now in need of more than 700 homes.”
Statistics show that a large part of Miami's workforce is commuting in, according to Eller.
“That tells us that people are not finding adequate housing,” Eller said. “It also indicates that there is a need for affordable housing as well as executive homes, too.”
With the $180,000 loan, Eller said the city will look for available lots within the city limits where new residential structures can be built.
“We will buy the land and then look for contractors to step forward and bid on construction projects,” Eller said. “Hopefully, the people who have been displaced can use insurance money and existing low-interest loan opportunities to help them get into a new home.”
Barger said that he and Eller will now look to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to assist the city with tax credits to help build apartment housing units for families. They will also seek additional funds to build infrastructure for future housing subdivisions.
“It is like putting together a puzzle,” Eller said. “It will take time, probably years to be where we need to be. Today, we got the first piece of the puzzle. We will keep working until we have residents in affordable housing that is not only safe, but is increasing in value.”