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Housing, antihomelessness advocates want to keep funding

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(The Center Square) – A coalition that includes antihomelessness advocates, businesses, and faith-based groups continues to oppose a bill they say could divert money from local housing and homelessness programs.

After the legislation cleared the Ohio Senate with just one no vote, Home Matters to Ohio turned its attention to the House with a letter to lawmakers urging a fix to Senate Bill 94.

Sponsors say the bill, which had its second hearing Tuesday in the House Finance Committee, would make public records more accessible while simplifying real estate transactions by creating a process to allow electronic property transfers in every county.

“Senate Bill 94 will continue to promote commerce in Ohio by allowing transactions to occur electronically in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, bringing a baseline of electronically accessible records going back to 1980,” Sens. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, and Al Landis, R-Dover, said in testimony.

Home Matters to Ohio, however, says the bill also excludes the fee revenue share between counties and the Ohio Housing Trust Fund that has been in place since 2003.

The trust fund is the primary funding source for local housing and homelessness programs.

“This proposed erosion of revenue into the Ohio Housing Trust Fund comes at a time when Ohio is poised for economic growth, while a record number of Ohioans face housing insecurity, and communities lack sufficient affordable homes for working Ohioans and seniors,” the letter reads.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s fiscal analysis of the bill says costs to implement digital records and electronic recording would likely be offset by grants from the new County Recorder Electronic Record Modernization Program, which contains $4.5 million.

The bill also calls for a $5 preservation surcharge that goes to the county’s general fund.

“From 2022-2024, there was a 35% decrease in OHTF revenue. Both county recorders’ offices and the Ohio Housing Trust Fund are seeing the impact of less revenue collection. While Senate Bill 94 offers a cure for the county recorders offices to recover some or all the lost revenue, unfortunately, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund has been left out of this legislation and will suffer significant revenue losses just as more Ohioans need assistance to cope with high housing prices,” the letter reads.

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