Below is an overview of DHN’s history as told by Steve McPeake of North Coast Community Homes and Bob Morgan of Delaware County Board of DD.
Between 2005 and 2007, DHN was a loose collection of Housing Corporation and County Board executives who saw the need for increasing the infrastructure supporting the special needs housing field of scattered-site, community-based rental properties in Ohio. During this period, DHN hosted a series of conferences that addressed some of the issues impacting local housing professionals.
In mid-2007, DHN incorporated as a nonprofit in the State of Ohio. As DHN began to place more emphasis on membership services and a stronger relationship with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, it also built a series of resources and best practices to be shared among the membership. It also began a series of research projects which helped establish a baseline of knowledge regarding special needs housing, including a Rent Cost Study, the first Housing Census, and the first County Housing Planning process.
With success in these areas, DHN entered a new phase in early 2011 when the Board of Director welcomed Jacalyn Slemmer as Executive Director. In hiring a person with Jacalyn’s extensive background in affordable housing development, the DHN board signaled its intention to position DHN to assist Ohio’s nonprofit housing corporations to diversify their sources of funding. In order to meet the growing demand for special needs housing across our state, housing corporations must increasingly be prepared to take full advantage of all available housing funding programs, including both those that are specific to people with disabilities and those that are not. Building on her long-established relationships with leaders at HUD, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Ohio Department of Development, and other housing-related organizations, Jacalyn has already begun the hard work of integrating housing for special needs populations into the existing affordable housing industry.
This new strategic focus dovetails beautifully with work DHN began in late 2010 with a grant from the Ohio DD Council. The two-year project implemented by Technical Assistance Consultant Cathy Allen provides DHN the ability to provide one-on-one technical assistance to nonprofit housing corporations seeking to build organizational capacity through board development, strategic planning, establishment of policies and procedures, and ongoing information sharing in housing operations and property management.