Homes in Springfield's northside neighborhoods could be candidates for Restore SGF's program. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

The city of Springfield hired consultants to conduct a housing study that could transform living conditions for vulnerable Springfield residents for the better.

The Springfield Department of Planning and Development announced it hired APD Urban Planning and Management to start a housing-needs assessment and a study of Springfield’s current housing conditions by the end of the year. The study is expected to create the numbers needed to boost the launch of Restore SGF, a program started to increase home ownership.

Springfield Assistant Director of Planning and Development Brendan Griesemer said the study will give an overview of Springfield and dial in on certain neighborhoods where rental rates are high and renters are financially vulnerable.

“This will be a data driven study which will be used to identify citywide and neighborhood focused housing priorities and provide policy alternatives and intervention strategies to guide the city in decision making for future housing needs,” Griesemer said.

APD Urban Planning and Management is based in Atlanta, Georgia. It has done housing or planning work in such cities as Chicago, Houston, Texas, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Kansas City, Missouri.

“APD specializes in neighborhood planning/revitalization with an emphasis on housing,” Griesemer said. “Their services are built around identifying existing strengths and assets and creating a vision and road map for improving the existing housing market and making permanent, high-quality housing achievable for residents.”

The assessment will be beneficial to Restore SGF because the consultants will collect and summarize data needed to tailor programming to Springfield’s needs, including a detailed assessment of current housing conditions, population demographics, housing market demands, housing gaps and strategies to fill the gaps. Springfield’s leaders will get a report with a detailed list of recommendations and strategies to prioritize neighborhoods for revitalization.

Restore SGF in the foundational stages

Homes in Springfield’s northside neighborhoods could be candidates for Restore SGF’s program. (Photo by Dean Curtis)

Restore SGF is a new nonprofit aimed at increasing homeownership, raising the value of properties and encouraging reinvestment in some of Springfield’s historic northside neighborhoods.

On July 25, 2022, the Springfield City Council approved Restore SGF’s $1 million request as part of a larger funding bill through the U.S. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund.

The ARPA funding will be combined with a $300,000 allocation from the city’s 2022-2023 fiscal year budget, investments adding up to $240,000 disbursed over three years from Community Foundation of the Ozarks and several banking industry partners. Restore SGF will hire its own staff and launch its own grant programs in the spring or summer of 2023. Restore SGF plans to have a block challenge program and a homeowner improvement program.

Restore SGF will have a program that gives money to homeowners to upgrade the exteriors of their homes. In order to qualify, the owners would have to invest some cash themselves, and then Restore SGF will match that investment.  This is a grant-matching program, meaning the money does not have to be repaid to Restore SGF.

Restore SGF also will have an investment program that helps new homeowners finance the purchase of a home, if they are intending to make renovations and upgrades. 

Community Foundation of the Ozarks pledged five $20,000 gifts over five years for a$100,000 total in grant funding for Restore SGF, plus $500,000 for the initiative’s revolving loan fund.

OakStar Bank, Commerce Bank, Old Missouri Bank, Great Southern Bank, Guaranty Bank, Arvest Bank and Legacy Bank have all committed $10,000 per year over three years, while Central Bank committed $20,000 per year over three years $60,000 total in grant funding. Great Southern Bank, Legacy Bank and Central Bank each committed $250,000 for the revolving loan fund.

Long-term housing solutions sought

The concept and launch of Restore SGF came from two years of brainstorming conversations between Springfield City Councilman Richard Ollis, Community Foundation of the Ozarks President Brian Fogle, Urban Districts Alliance Executive Director Rusty Worley, Griesemer and Bill Owen, who now serves as a state representative and was reelected without opposition Nov. 8.

The group is concerned about Springfield’s aging housing stock, nuisance properties and the high percentage of renters compared to homeowners.

On July 26, a consulting group warned the Springfield City Council of a finding that wages are not meeting housing costs for about one out of three Springfield households.

People who spend more than 30 percent of monthly earnings on rent and housing costs fall into an income category the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers to be statistically unstable and at the highest risk for homelessness. In Springfield that affects people living in 8,230 households.

ARPA funding comes with deadline

An illustration shows the levels of housing stability and the organizations that provide help in Springfield as people navigate the path from homelessness to permanent housing. (Illustration by Springfield Department of Planning and Development)

ARPA is a $1.9 trillion federal aid package the U.S. Congress enacted in March 2021 to provide financial aid to families, governments, businesses, schools, nonprofits and others impacted by the economic recesses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that $1.9 trillion, $350 billion is going to state and local governments as part of the Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Funds must be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. A council bill set aside $7 million for projects to help with homelessness and housing projects. Springfield city staffers conducted a survey to determine funding priorities for the ARPA funds in the fall of 2021.  

The four-page questionnaire was mailed on Sept. 27, 2021, to 5,000 randomly selected households within the city limits of Springfield. Results were based on 1,438 completed questionnaires (1,237 mail and 201 online). Overall findings have a +/- 2.6-percent margin of error, a 95-percent statistical confidence interval.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger