By Bruce Luecke
Over three years ago the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio (AHACO) produced a study that concluded there were 54,000 households in Franklin County living in poverty and paying half of their income for housing. While some success is happening in addressing the shortfall, the question is, can Homeport and other AHACO members accelerate the pace of affordable home building, or will we fall further behind?
This is not an academic question.
Columbus and Central Ohio has a projected growth of one million residents by 2050, and the area is simply not building homes fast enough, according to a study by Vogt Strategic Insights conducted for the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Central Ohio.
There is a demand for 14,000 new housings units a year in our 10-county region, but only 8,000 are being built, Vogt’s report said. And of the 457,597 people who will need housing by 2050, more than half, 233,350, will need to be a renter.
“If permitting activity does not increase, Columbus will not realize its job growth projections and housing affordability will be exacerbated” for both renters and home buyers, the summary report concluded.
Homeport, now in its 31st year, has 2,400 apartments and homes for affordable housing, serving 6,200 residents. In 2018 we began construction on 30 affordable rentable apartments in Reynoldsburg, completed for rent 33 new single-family homes in Milo-Grogan, built nine homes in American Addition and celebrated the opening of 64 apartments for seniors in Whitehall.
For 2019, we are seeking government approvals and neighborhood support to build apartments in North Linden, Franklinton, Clintonville, Grove City, Whitehall and elsewhere.
The process is never easy -- be it financing or protecting the integrity of neighborhoods and resident concerns. That said, change can be good. Does anyone remember that the Arena District once was home to the Ohio State Penitentiary?
Whatever is going to happen, organizations like Homeport can’t do it alone. The “Columbus Way” has facilitated much progress. Now, more than ever, visionary leadership on a regional basis will be required if Columbus and Central Ohio wants to continue to be the growing community it is and aspires to be. There is a definitive need to meet the affordable housing gap as it exists today and in the future. We have work to do. We can’t afford to let down.
(Bruce Luecke is President and CEO of Homeport)