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Will the Gas Rush in Eastern Ohio Result in Rent Gouging and Displacement in formerly stable communities?

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Cody Coleman-Chrisman speech before the Steubenville Summit
    Hi , I am Cody Coleman-ChrismanI want to thank the panel and WTOV 9 News for holding this meeting so we could finally be heard.  Real Media coverage comes from listening to those people who are actively trying to speak up rather than observing them from an emotional distance and exploiting them.
    I started researching and doing ground work on the social impacts of fracking a few years ago. At first I started due to the increase in rental properties that were driving locals out, displacing them, watch them couch surf, and some even became homeless. The research became listening projects, surveys, meetings with senators and representatives, Metro Housing Authorities (HUD), Job and Family Services, Legal Aid, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and talking to tenants, landlords and residents across the Ohio Valley.
    I could go into lengthy detail about the laundry list of social impacts that has come with the industry . Increase in rent and lack of housing, increase in drugs and crime, truck and traffic problems , prostitution, STD's, immigrants, and slumlords. BUT, everybody either knows this personally to be true or knows someone going through this. ( If you watch WTOV 9 you know what's going on)
    So why waste your time with what we already know?  We (you and I) are not even at square one at handling and dealing with these issues. You have nobody looking to control the industry.
The only thing we got done was a lot of complaining on Facebook. ( I should know, I started one [a FB page] due to this...and I am proud of it)
    There are TWO barriers we face
  • The First One:  [The attitude that] "There is nothing we can do, nothing can be done."  We feel helpless. (epecially in the wake of the Supreme Court decision which stripped local communities of the right to control local drilling.)
  • Second Barrier:  Things have and are changing.  The [gas and oil] industry is here to stay.  Decisions are being made that locals don't understand.  We cannot go on in denial . We can't go as refugees in our own home. We have to accept the reality of the truth of our once rural communities. Nostalgia of "how things use to be", when an apartment was $400, traffic was quiet, you knew everybody in your town. THAT'S GONE.  That is not our reality in the Ohio Valley anymore.
    So what do we do???  There is a need to restore balance between the industry and the residents.  We need more local voices addressing local officials about local issues. The lobbyist should NOT be the only people present at village council or county commissioners meetings.  We need to create a multi-county and multi-issue citizens network to mobilize residents to speak for our OWN INTERESTS.
    Restoration of some "Home Rule" Protections. This is huge. We change state law, have a constitutional amendment to protect Home Rules, and recreate local ordinances to fit into the Supreme Courts new ruling.
    We need to find ways for a fair share of gas and oil money profits (think severance tax) to go back to the communities for investment in future economic development. It's very nice the industry gives donations to VFD'S and Food banks but that money is gone in a week. We need to create trust funds for investments in new affordable housing for low and middle class residents. We need to have " Seed Money" to help local entrepreneurs.  We need support for education for the residents who stay in the community as teachers, health professionals, and development professionals.  That way money isn't going to be controlled by politicians or lobbyist but controlled by us (you and me) as residents.  Thank you.

Oil glut:  Where from here?
  • Industry:
    • Solve the water problem(s) that haunt the industry-using water depletes local resources, injecting waste water causes earthquakes 
    • adopt “good neighbor policies” which minimize stupid accidents, maximize transparency and invite community input. http://insideenergy.org/2014/12/05/relationships-101-oil-and-gas-look-for-a-social-license-to-operate/ AND http://shaleplayneohio.com/page/content.detail/id/511143/Drilling—Pipeline-Accidents-Taking-Toll.html?nav=5024
    •  Make capital investments in local communities' infrastructure. The industry reliance on donations to schools, VFDs and united ways just seems to most folks like PR payoffs. 
    • As you continue to experiment with new technology “in public” keep the "precautionary principle" in mind. There are no risk free public experiments but not sending precautionary signals resulted in the NY State Ban. See Dr. Who episode The Inferno. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_%28Doctor_Who%29
  • Social Researchers:
    • Develop good data on housing and local employment impacts of G/O development. Assess both short term and long term housing needs.
    • Analyze impact of all those soon to be empty hotel/motel rooms. 
    • find ways to create a funding firewall so you can take industry support and still be independent. One example could be to create an independent research foundation that can give research grants based on community,need, not industry, need.
  • Residents:
    • Get organized to provide a counter balance to the lobbyists who attend every city & village council meeting in the Gas Counties.
    • Find smarter ways to coordinate for mutual support (hint: Facebook is not enough).
    • Do the hard work of working with local and state officials...not just complaining or protesting.
    • Try to avoid NIMBYs.  They are not interested in the community...only their backyard.
  • Civic leaders:
    • Create trust funds to capture short term revenues for long term development and make plans for longer term development that balances conserving values (home, family, self reliance) within an industrial development sector.



 
What's news?
Feb 7, 2015  Bust or blip?
The great recession was probably triggered by subprime mortgages bonds defaulting, but the collapse was the result of unsupported debts.  So today's low oil prices could trigger a house of cards collapse in the sectors of the oil industry that are already weak.  How long will it take for the "weak" (undercapitalized) players to be cleared out?  Many signs point to a blip, not a bust.
November 16, 2014 Housing is a quiet crisis in the gas counties
This week's rhino!UP newsletter featured two stories about the rent crisis in Ohio's Gas Counties.  Here's some background information that wouldn't fit in the print edition. 
What!  You're not a RHINO member and you don't subscribe to rhino!UP sign up here.

November 1, 2014 Times Recorder reports
City faces rental property shortage  "Local renters have to wait longer, pay more and get less when looking for their dream home, according to a 2012 study.  The area’s 1 percent rental housing vacancy rate is forcing many people to remain on months-long waiting lists; others compromise their needs to find a place to live. The study, ordered by the Zanesville-Muskingum County Port Authority, found that among 986 rental units in Zanesville, only 10 were vacant. That 99 percent occupancy rate is “much higher than a typical overall occupancy rate,” the study stated. The study attributes the high rate to the growth in oil and gas exploration in surrounding areas, saying that while the community has been affected less than Cambridge, the housing markets are facing similar challenges."
http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/story/news/local/2014/11/01/city-faces-rental-property-shortage/18334067/

Who should build housing in the Gas Counties, government or industry?

    At last night's Town Hall in Cadiz, a local landlord made the observation that "private industry, not government" needed to take the lead in building more housing.  "Who built most of the housing in the county," he asked rhetorically?   "It was the coal and steel industries." 
    As a sidelight on the history of housing development in "the Valley", here's a story about a new mural commemorating the factory housing in Campbell Ohio.  http://www.vindy.com/news/2014/sep/12/campbell-mural-benefit-bring-pride-to-no/  From the article:
"Sokoloff noted that the site is regarded as the world’s first modern apartment complex, and that each unit offered its residents countless amenities that very few working-class families then had access to, like hot and cold running water, gas and electric. The row houses, too, are unique in that they are made of prefabricated, rebar-reinforced concrete slabs and were assembled with cranes."
    Here's a different perspective of housing development in The Valley when the New Deal delivered prefab houses to Arthurdale West Virginia.  From the article:
'In 1933, New Deal homesteader Arnold Malone might have watched as a train delivered 50 prefabricated houses to Arthurdale. One of them would be his home; E-2 was his address and he would be among the first in his community to have indoor plumbing and electricity."
    Based on the discussion, the need and the controversy continue.

It's not
about greedy landlords as much as supply and demand

In early August, a group of local officials and advocates from Harrison County met informally with representatives from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA). The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways in which OHFA could help local officials to promote affordable housing opportunities in Harrison County. Cody Coleman Christman, a co-director of Ohio Valley Renters Advocates, organized and chaired the meeting.

County Commissioner Don Bethel and Harrison Metro director Dan Gichevski each offered perspectives on the housing problems faced by Harrison County residents in the wake of the gas and oil boom. OHFA staff members Bryan Grady, Deborah Lesure, Jon McKay, and Kelan Craig gave background on OHFA programs.

Commissioner Don Bethel said that stable mid career families and younger households are having difficulty finding a place to live in the county because of rising rents. "Despite the many benefits that have come to the county from the gas and oil boom, there are housing problems that need to be addressed."

Commissioner Bethel expressed the desire for an affordable development that served a wide range of age and economic levels. OHFA's Lesure emphasized that Low Income Housing Tax Credit housing is not subsidized like Metro...but offers "lower than market" rents for working families.

Dan Gichevski, Executive Director of Harrison Metropolitan Housing picked up on the Commissioner's statement that property owners are now making up for losses they have suffered from a bad rental market for over a decade. "It's not about greedy landlords, that's not the problem."

Stephanie Gilmore, a Court Advocate for victims of domestic violence at Tri-County Help Center, said that she sees a lot of cases where battered women can't leave the abusive situation because she can't find them housing even with a Housing Choice voucher.

New or rehab?

A critical question was whether the existing housing stock could be rehabilitated for affordable rental or if the goal should be creating new affordable rental units. OHFA's XXX suggested that the supply of existing older housing could make an attractive Tax Credit project. Dan G and CCC argued that new housing units were needed. Crisman argued that the cost of rehab in older housing with lead, asbestos and mold problems problems was comparable to new construction. The psychological value of "something new" would insure the long term viability of the investment. "People want to live in a newer modern home."

How long will the housing need continue?
Whether developers could be enticed to come into Harrison County depends somewhat on whether they think that the gas and oil boom will last. What happens to new developments when the "boom" is over?" CCC cited reports that suggested that the gas and oil boom could likely continue for 15 years. OHFA studies (several currently underway) don't offer such a clear vision of the future.

Next step: More dialogue.
OHFA staff suggested that local officials could become involved in public hearings on OHFA's Qualified Action Plan--the blueprint for how OHFA dollars are spent. Reaching out to private affordable housing developers to make them more familiar with Harrison county will be an important step for local officials.

Both OHFA reps and local officials acknowledge that lack of infrastructure (water, sewer and electric) are barriers to new housing development, but Commissioner Bethel and Director Gichevski expressed confidence that these obstacles can be overcome.

Cody Coleman Christman of the OVRA pledged her group's  support to efforts to continue and expand this dialogue. "I went down to Columbus to testify in support of bringing severance tax dollars back to the community and will do even more to make sure that people in my hometown can have decent, safe, affordable housing."

News and comments

April 23, 2014 Southern shift of Ohio's Utica Shale drilling boom
Canton Repository has a good feature story (Apr. 7, 2014) on the shift of gas and oil exploration to the Belmont and Guernsey County area. "Horizontal drilling and fracking has steadily expanded south and east from Carroll County since 2011, bringing with it opportunities and challenges."  You have to go to page 3-4 for a discussion of the "housing squeeze"

Apr 15, 2014 State plan for earthquake monitoring worries drilling industry/ODNR has acknowledged a link between drilling-related activity and small earthquakes that occurred last month near Youngstown.  Industry spokesperson Tom Stewart sounds like he's on shaky ground trying to explain that drilling can trigger earthquakes but earthquakes happen all the time...
from Columbus Business Daily: Stewart doesn’t dispute that fracking or its related activities can cause earthquakes. I asked him if the industry might need to retool its message from denying or downplaying that fracking can cause seismic activity to a more pragmatic approach, that some small earthquakes are part of the package for domestic production.  “I’ve heard people say just that,” Stewart told me. “I would not want to tell your readers that I’m taking this casually or callously. We don’t want to be shaking people’s homes. Should we be taking measures to mitigate that? Absolutely. Conversely, the fact that the earth moves and shakes all the time, and will forever move and shake all the time, needs to be put in perspective.”

April 15, 2014 Group Launches 'Listening Project' on Fracking
  Ohio Business Daily reports Communities United for Responsible Energy, or Cure, plans to conduct a "listening project" this spring and summer to survey the effects of oil and gas exploration in Columbiana and Carroll counties. 

4/12/14:Study Spells Out Pluses, Minuses of Shale Drilling   http://businessjournaldaily.com/drilling-down/study-spells-out-pluses-minuses-shale-drilling-2014-4-11
    In Carroll County, wealth generated from signing bonuses and royalty payments to landowners have led to a surge in retail sales of new vehicles, farm equipment, tools and contracting services. Also, employees of oil and gas companies have purchased local services, eat at local restaurants, and purchase some supplies from local vendors.
    As such, sales-tax receipts in the county increased 31% from 2011 and 2012. Retail trade for building materials and garden equipment rose 28% over the same period, the Carroll County study shows. Rental units across the county are filled, as is the Days Inn hotel in Carrollton, driving a shortage of available housing and higher rents.
    But, "there are costs to the community associated with shale development," reports Amanda Woodrum of Policy Matters Ohio, a member of the collaborative.
She reports that far fewer jobs were created by the oil and gas industry than originally forecast. While unemployment in the county stands at 8.3%, down from recession levels of 14%, it's still well off the pre-recession number of 5.8% in July 2007.
    "A lot of these jobs have gone to out-of-state workers," Woodrum says. This influx has led to housing shortages and higher rental rates.
    These soaring rents have made it difficult for local low-income families to secure affordable housing in the county, Woodrum says.
    Other downsides are a rise in traffic accidents, excessive wear and tear on roads, and health and environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing and waste disposal, she said.

Utica Shale investments worth more than $18 billion Utica Shale drilling has fostered more than $18 billion in related development in Ohio, according to a report by law firm Bricker & Eckler.  The list notes 105 projects, including pipelines, natural gas processing plants, hotels, railroads, electric power plants, steel factories and colleges.  Thanks to Times Reporter find the data base here

March 1, 2014 An influx of out-of-state workers has impact beyond the workforce MAKING ROOM.  The Youngstown Vindicator takes a long look at the housing impacts of the gas and oil boom in Ohio's Eastern Counties.  The research data showed an influx of workers, combined with limited affordable housing availability and housing per diems, caused market prices to soar and strained the existing housing infrastructure in the county. “As this industry expands in eastern Ohio, we anticipate that additional housing shortages will take place throughout the region, with smaller communities being affected first,” Robin Stewart, project manager at Ohio University’s School of Leadership and Public Affairs, said in a statement.


February 24, 2014  New survey of elected officials in the gas counties. 
Take aways were:
  • Most elected officials thought gas and oil development was on balance a good thing;
  • most saw a rise in property values and rents;
  • few saw environmental problems (other than demand for water).
You can download the report and the slides of the presentation here: http://www.ohio.edu/ce3/research/shale/shaleimpactsurvey.cfm

February 7, 2014 Oil drillers pay for fracking workshops for teachers

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program is reaching out to elementary school teachers with frack-friendly curriculum.  ."The students also could build makeshift derricks, or use plastic foam and cotton to construct gas-pipe cleaners, or remove vegetable oil from jars full of gravel. The teachers tried these tasks in a conference room at the Easton Town Center Hilton.

1/30/14 Kasich threatens to veto fracking tax bill
The Columbus Dispatch reports:  Gov. John Kasich said if a severance tax proposal reaches his desk that doesn’t pass “the smell test and is fair, I’m going to veto it.”  “I told them, puny doesn’t work,”

January 28, 2014   Fracking: So where’s the economic boom that was promised?  Columbus Dispatch reports:   More than three years after the first Utica drilling permit was approved, transient workers are among the most-tangible signs of the shale “boom.”  While economic activity has boosted sales-tax revenue significantly, which helps the economy, there has been little measurable change in the underlying labor market.
Thanks to Joyce for sharing

4/29/13 (sorry I missed this study last year,) Many Stressors Associated With Fracking Due to Perceived Lack of Trust Science Daily reports on a study of stress associated with fracking in PA.  "The most commonly cited concern was stress, which 76 percent of participants said they'd experienced. Among the leading causes of stress reported by the participants were feelings of being taken advantage of, having their concerns and complaints ignored, and being denied information or misled. "Many of these stressors can be addressed immediately by the gas drilling industry and by government," said senior author Bernard Goldstein, M.D., emeritus professor and former dean of Pitt Public Health."

Jan. 8, 2014 Backers to discuss Ohio shale well tax proposal The Associated Press reports "Lawmakers will hear from backers of a proposal to increase taxes on horizontally drilled shale wells in Ohio. The measure to be discussed at a hearing Wednesday is supported by Ohio's oil and gas industry as a compromise to an earlier plan pushed by Gov. John Kasich. The industry had balked at Kasich's proposal to raise severance taxes on drillers and use proceeds to deliver modest income tax relief to Ohioans."

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