- 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.
Denver adopts affordable, inclusive housing plan
- The Denver City Council has passed a five-year housing policy, strategy and investment plan, called Housing an Inclusive Denver.
- The plan lists suggested initiatives to assist low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness, as well as programs to increase the supply of housing units that are affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. The plan aims to create or preserve 3,000 housing units by 2023.
- The plan also presents strategies for spending Denver’s $150 million dedicated housing fund to support affordable housing creation and preservation over a 10-year period.
Denver has had explosive population growth over the past decade but new home unit construction hasn’t kept up, which has contributed to a shortage in the city’s housing supply. The high demand and low supply has prompted a spike in home purchase and rental prices that has outpaced wage growth, as evidenced in a recent study analyzing housing in Colorado. These factors are coming together to make the Denver area a less affordable place to live in, a problem that is markedly worse for residents at the lower end of the income scale.
The city’s new housing plan doesn’t just state actions to increase overall housing capacity. The plan puts values like inclusivity and fostering opportunities for all residents at its forefront, as well as embracing neighborhood diversity. It also recommends that the city expands its partnerships and leverages other stakeholders and resources to increase affordable housing.
Denver is not the only city experiencing affordability difficulties right now. Rising prices and low supply are two things plaguing cities across the country and causing an affordability crisis. Municipalities like Salt Lake City and Seattleare devising or expanding their own affordable housing plans. Some cities are looking for other creative solutions, such as the proposal in San Diego to increase the number of live-work spaces.
Municipalities also are realizing that housing crises are not simply a local issue. Their effects spread throughout a region or even a state. That has prompted 14 Boston-area cities to come together to form a housing partnership, as well as a proposed bill in California to mandate greater housing density near transit throughout the state. A group of CEOs and mayors, including Denver’s, also formed a housing investment coalition last month to tackle housing affordability and homelessness.
- City of Denver Denver’s Plan for More Affordable, Inclusive Housing Moves Forward
- The Denver Post Denver’s five-year housing plan for $15 million-a-year fund is now official; disagreements persist on details
- The Salt Lake City Council unanimously passed a housing plan that is largely focused on creating more affordable housing, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
- KSL-TV reports that the council also is calling on other Utah cities to step up and create their own housing plans, noting Salt Lake City cannot take care of all of the region’s affordable housing needs alone.
- The five-year comprehensive housing plan is the city’s first since 2000.
Salt Lake City’s plan has been in the works for some time and was proposed earlier this year. It recommended requiring developers to meet quotas for affordable units in new housing projects or opt out by contributing to a housing fund. The plan involves zoning changes to allow increased density and different types of housing, such as accessory dwellings. Part of the plan requires evaluating the city’s sellable surplus land to determine if it is fit for housing developments.
Salt Lake City had been lax on updating its previous plan because its population had been in decline. But leaders found the new plan necessary because the city has experienced about 4% population growth since 2010. With such growth comes an increase in housing costs and the overall cost of living.
Although council members hope that other cities will follow their example in tackling the affordable housing problem, they also acknowledge that no other municipalities can be forced to take action. They understand that some communities that haven’t been touched by the problem at a deep level yet might not feel the need to make housing plans right now. A host of issues — including funding and public pushback — can prevent cities from planning for problems that don’t worry their citizens at the moment.
But Salt Lake City council members said other local governments that don’t enact plans will most certainly be faced with the affordable problem down the road, considering that housing costs rapidly are growing faster than incomes across the entire country. In addition, solving problems collaboratively with neighboring municipalities often proves more successful for a region in the long term, rather than the problems just temporarily shifting to neighboring areas.
The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake City approves housing plan; Biskupski takes first step to implement it