Summit County affordable housing hit hard by recalculated income index

The Summit County real estate market is enjoying a sort of a renaissance — unless you own a deed-restricted home.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a new area median income, or AMI, for Summit County. This AMI benchmark is revised annually to help local property owners and organizations like the Summit Combined Housing Authority determine who qualifies for affordable housing.

Yet when Carina Fisher decided to sell her home in Summit Cove’s Soda Creek neighborhood, one of nearly 20 sought-after deed-restricted properties in the county, she was hit with an unexpected bombshell.

The HUD recently revamped its formula for calculating AMI, and when it did so, the local AMI was slashed by roughly 4.6 percent. It dropped from $90,800 in 2014 to $86,600 in 2015 — the steepest decline since before the Great Recession of 2008.

In general, deed-restricted homes tend to increase in value every year when based on the AMI, and local values were no exception until this year. Income levels don’t wax or wane as wildly as the real estate market, so when homeowners like Fisher and two Soda Creek neighbors approached the housing authority advisory board last week for an explanation, they assumed their homes were earning equity, or at least remaining static

But because deed-restricted properties are separate from the free market — home prices in Soda Creek are based on a percentage of Summit’s current AMI — they don’t play by the rules of economic recovery. Instead, they play by the rules of a federal HUD algorithm.