By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Coordinator
This past April, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) convened a second statewide affordable housing learning exchange at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) offices. Affordable housing practitioners and advocates from Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo discussed local housing challenges and identified successful initiatives to build on.
Local leaders reported on recent successes, including:
Leaders in Columbus noted that Columbus Business First is making Columbus’s affordable housing crisis the paper’s theme for 2018 and the City of Columbus is implementing new tax abatements while splitting up developments into 3 categories: market ready, ready for opportunity, and ready for revitalization. Cincinnati has a number of promising initiatives underway, including efforts to think through the possibilities of the 40,000 housing-insecure families and 40,000 vacant homes in the region.
Cleveland’s affordable housing practitioners updated participants on the county housing plan, and efforts to protect housing voucher holders.
The Exchange included a presentation from leaders from LISC Toledo who explained how Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) are helping to foster housing stability in the region by providing integrated services. Three FOCs in the Toledo region offer wrap-around housing, financial, and workforce programs; so far over 200 families are enrolled in the homelessness prevention program.
Participants also briefly reviewed state and local initiatives such as the Home Matters to Ohio Campaign, which sought, in 2017, to expand the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which is the biggest contributor to affordable housing in Ohio. Although the effort did not pass efforts in 2017 create a strong basis for future advocacy efforts. Participants also discussed Opportunity Zones, which is a new federal incentive program allowing for additional investment to be made in particular census tracts.
The Exchange allowed practitioners to share policy ideas and strategies that could be replicated across the state and to reaffirm the shared challenge of having too few housing vouchers available locally. The Exchange energized participants and offered practical solutions that will help stabilize Ohio’s neighborhoods and the families that live in these neighborhoods.
GOPC thanks Fifth Third Bank for their support of this learning exchange.