Affordable Housing Needs Still Large Despite Successes

By Bruce Luecke

Bruce Luecke

Bruce Luecke

Columbus Business First recently recognized me as one of the top 100 individuals driving the community conversation in Central Ohio. I subsequently told our Marketing department not to publicize it.

While grateful for the honor, it is important not to let the conversations overshadow the work done daily by our organization in stabilizing 6,200 individuals – families and seniors – through quality affordable housing and wraparound services and programs in our 36 communities. Great work is also being accomplished by our peers and partners.

The focus must remain on building more homes and strengthening community support to address the shortfall in affordable housing. So much more needs to be done knowing 54,000 families, our neighbors, are spending at least 50 percent of their income on housing, often living a paycheck to paycheck existence one disaster – medical, car, employment -- from an eviction.

That said, here is a snapshot of why I remain optimistic thanks to our staff, area residents, governmental entities, area foundations, business partners and the financial community.

Currently we are deep into construction of Blacklick Crossing, a 30-apartment development across from Blacklick Woods Metro Park and down the street from Reynoldsburg High School.

At the same time, in Grove City, in a joint venture with Spire Development, we are in the process of laying underground utilities for a future 28-unit development known as Arrowleaf.

On the Near East Side of Columbus, in conjunction with the Central Ohio Community Land Trust, we are about to construct 10 homes. A shared equity resale formula will assure affordable housing for the first homebuyer and subsequent homebuyers who follow.

For the first time since 2005, Homeport has received two Low Income Housing Tax Credit awards to develop affordable housing. And, we have a number of promising prospective deals in our pipeline.

Early rendering of Kenlawn Place in North Linden.

Early rendering of Kenlawn Place in North Linden.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) on May 15 awarded $565,000 for a 32-apartment senior community in Whitehall, a second phase of our popular Hamilton Crossing apartments. OHFA also awarded $899,000 toward the financing of 50 affordable apartments and single-family homes in North Linden off Cleveland Avenue in what we are calling Kenlawn Place.

The awards came on the heels of Columbus voters approving a $1 billion bond issue that for the first time in the city history committed funds ($50 million) for affordable housing. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the city, with the help of a consultant, will be developing recommendations to best leverage the money with private and philanthropic partners.

Finally, on June 24 government and civic leaders, foundations and a cavalcade of financial institutions came together to announce a $100 million fund for affordable housing that will be managed by the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther at ‘Housing Action Fund’ announcement.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther at ‘Housing Action Fund’ announcement.

Founding investors include Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County, Columbia Gas/NiSource Charitable Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, Heartland Bank, Huntington, L Brands, Nationwide, Park National Bank and PNC.

The “Housing Action Fund” will provide low cost loans with “quick strike” capability to developers like Homeport to preserve and increase affordable apartments and homes in Franklin County.

“We’re all in, and all in together on this important issue,” said Columbus Foundation President and CEO Doug Kridler.

Oh, by the way, our Marketing Department did mention on Facebook the Columbus Business First article on the top 100 influential leaders. But the emphasis was where it should have been.

“Congratulations to ALL of the influential leaders named to the Columbus Business First Power 100. We are excited to see all of the affordable housing leaders listed and the momentum behind tackling the affordable housing crisis.”

(Bruce Luecke is President & CEO of Homeport)