COLUMBUS — The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Franklin County, City of Columbus and additional regional partners released Wednesday the results of the Regional Housing Strategy for Central Ohio.
The strategy was developed over the course of a year in a coordinated effort to leverage housing as a platform for equitable growth and recovery. It applies to Franklin County and its six adjacent counties: Delaware; Fairfield; Licking; Madison; Pickaway; and Union.
After seeing historic growth and demographic changes – mixed with a highly competitive real estate market and persistent socioeconomic disparities – the study was created to address the increasing number of central Ohio residents struggling to find and afford housing in neighborhoods of their choice.
“The Regional Housing Strategy being unveiled provides data that reflects the ongoing and continued disparities for minorities and vulnerable populations who are seeking safe, decent and affordable housing options in central Ohio,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “There is a clear need for other municipalities to increase the resources they offer to support affordable housing. To affect change, it must be a regional effort.”
The process began with a thorough investigation of existing and projected housing needs in the region, grounded by both quantitative and qualitative assessments to understand housing supply and demand throughout the region, barriers to development and the regional housing finance landscape.
The research uncovered five core regional housing issues that guide the Regional Housing Strategy:
• Increased competition for homes, driven by increased population growth, a low rate of housing production, and lasting impacts from the Great Recession
• Barriers limiting access to homes, including disparities in lending practices, creditworthiness, housing instability, and housing discrimination
• Limited supply of homes priced for low-income households, as more homes are built at higher price points, the region loses some of its existing affordable options (including single-family rentals and expiring subsidized housing), and demand for rental assistance continues to outweigh supply
• Demand for more homes that serve a wider range of ages, abilities, and household sizes, which is growing as a result of the region’s changing demographics. This includes trends like the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in Central Ohio and the growing number of both older and younger adults in the region
• Housing instability among Central Ohioans, as reflected in the region’s rates of cost-burden, evictions, homelessness, and homes in need of repair
The report culminates in an agile “implementer’s toolkit” of strategies designed to flex as the region grows and changes over time – with a number of potential actions the region could take today using the public and private resources currently available – in addition to building on partnerships and creative financing solutions that may make new innovations possible in the future. The toolkit is available online and can be filtered by community and each of the 100+ action items.
Priority actions include:
• Adopt a “Green tape” development review process – “Green tape” development review refers to removing regulatory barriers that often result in lengthy development processes and increased development costs. By making the process more efficient, developers are able to build their projects in a more cost-effective way, providing more opportunity for low- to moderate-income homes in residential areas.
• More tenant-based rental assistance – This is to address housing instability across the region, along with developing access to information and infrastructure. As seen recently, the number of households at risk of eviction continues to go up as a result of COVID-19, disproportionately impacting neighborhoods of color.
• Enact source of income protection laws – This is something local governments can take on today and make a big difference in removing barriers to accessing housing. In addition to adopting protective legislation for tenants regionwide, funding is also needed to mitigate any potential risk to landlords.
• Create a state housing tax credit – More development gap financing is needed. A statewide housing tax credit can help to fill that gap, but significant regional advocacy is needed.
• Pilot development of diverse, lower-cost housing products – The idea behind this is to foster innovative design and construction as a way of increasing the number of homes that can serve a wider range of ages, abilities and households. It is also important to consider mobility alternatives and necessary changes to zoning.
Specific deliverables include a housing investment allocation portfolio; non-financial/regulatory strategies; and a template for Local Housing Action Agendas – a coordinated effort between MORPC and its membership to fully leverage the potential actions. All of these are available in an online resource hub and dashboard – along with metrics to track the region’s progress.
The housing strategy built upon the work of the Affordable Housing Alliance, Franklin County’s poverty and economic development work, the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio Housing Need Assessment and the City of Columbus’s 2018 Incentives Study.
Regional stakeholders representing local governments, financial institutions, real estate, for-profit and non-profit residential developers, service providers and community leaders have all been involved in developing investment and policy recommendations that will serve as a guide for planning for the region’s future housing market. This is the first time for central Ohio to address housing on a regional scale and the first of its kind in the country.
“Meeting and better understanding housing challenges in central Ohio with new strategies to address growth and equity was already critical. With the current health and economic crises, it’s even more urgent and important to address housing gaps and opportunities across the region and with public, private, and non-profit partners,” MORPC Executive Director William Murdock said.
Local governments are encouraged to work with MORPC on developing Local Housing Action Agendas to help identify the strategies most successful for their own community and to continue to engage in regional conversations around policy and programmatic changes.
The Regional Housing Strategy was funded by: the cities of Columbus, Dublin, Grove City, Lancaster, Whitehall, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Marysville, Delaware and Westerville; Franklin, Union and Licking counties; AEP; Campus Partners; the Columbus Chamber of Commerce; The Columbus Foundation; the Columbus Partnership; Columbus Realtors; Huntington Bank; L Brands; Mount Carmel Health System; Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Nationwide Insurance; OhioHealth; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; and Rev1 Ventures.
Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a non-profit out of Washington, D.C., served as the lead consultant for the project. The team included the local agencies of Ice Miller, RAMA Consulting and Vogt Strategic Insights.
More information on the Regional Housing Strategy, including its deliverables, is available at www.morpc.org/rhs.
Submitted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.