- The Columbus, OH City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to spend up to $5.6 million in Capital Improvement Budget bond money on grants to increase the housing supply. The legislation was approved as an emergency measure so the program could begin as quickly as possible.
- The Affordable Housing Trust of Columbus and Franklin County, OH, as the fiscal agent for the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, will administer the grants. The funding will go toward both affordable and market-rate housing developments, the first of which will be the purchase of two motels that will be transformed into housing for homeless youth and those transitioning out of foster care.
- The same day as the council vote, the city and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a regional housing strategy, as part of an overall strategy to deal with the shortage of affordable housing. It will include a housing market and affordability study and recommendations for how to most effectively spend public and private money on affordable housing, including the city's $50 million bond package that goes to voters next month.
The city estimates that it is short 54,000 units of affordable housing to meet current needs, and that last year more than 40,000 people moved to Columbus. Leaders say it's important to confront housing needs and shortages immediately as the region grows.
"We are at a critical moment in the city’s trajectory, facing a shortage of affordable housing at the same time our economy and population are continuing to grow," Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement. "We are looking for effective and strategic plans, not just for Columbus but for the region, that will ensure residents will be able to remain in their neighborhoods without stifling growth and development."
Commissioning a housing study and strategy for moving forward could prevent Columbus from spending time and money on non-viable solutions. More people than ever are recognizing the housing crisis and its severity and are trying to take action to prevent it from worsening. Cities including Denver and Salt Lake City drafted comprehensive housing plans to guide both short-term and long-term housing capacity and affordability strategies rather than opting for quick, one-off solutions.
Taking a regional approach also could lead to greater success for Columbus. Other metropolitan areas are taking a collaborative approach on a variety of topics because big issues tend not to remain contained within one city's borders. That mentality prompted Salt Lake City Council members to encourage neighboring cities to follow suit when they passed their housing plan last year.