Survey says public opinion doesn’t support a housing initiative this year
SUMMIT COUNTY – A public opinion survey that showed less than 50 percent of voters would support a property or sales tax to fund the Summit Housing Authority prompted the organization to avoid an election question this November.”We were looking at borderline support … not overwhelming support, and that’s what we feel we want to garner to go to election,” board chairman Doug Sullivan said.The housing authority plans a public relations campaign to educate people on its services, who it serves and the area’s housing needs. A ballot initiative will be considered again in 2006, Sullivan said.The telephone survey taken in April found 42 percent of respondents would support a property tax measure and 44 percent would support an increased sales tax.Executive director Bonnie Osborn said the survey also indicated the community does not understand who the housing authority serves.”It’s the folks who keep the place running,” she said, listing police, firefighters, teachers and EMTs as examples.”We’ll take a year and get the word out, particularly among the grassroots people – people in the county who vote – and help them understand the benefit we bring to the infrastructure to the community.”The housing authority had considered several ways to fund new projects or property purchases to increase the number of affordable homes in Summit County. A property or sales tax could have generated $1.25 million annually for such brick-and-mortar projects.Osborn said the hardest part of waiting a year to address funding is realized for her at lottery events when families who don’t win leave in tears.”A woman with four kids who had moved four times told me, ‘I just need to have these kids know that we have a neighborhood and a home and a place where we’re going to be able to stay,'” Osborn said. “These things just wrench at your heart and it’s difficult to not be able to move forward that quickly.”Emotions aside, Osborn said she feels positive about the future because the organization is developing good relationships with the towns, which are individually working to offer housing for locals. Grants and volunteer help are also pouring in as the organization gains more credibility, she said.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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