Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods

Greater Ohio Policy Center's (GOPC) “Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods: Evaluating the Impact of Housing Investments in Weinland Park” is a data-driven report that considers whether the Columbus neighborhood of Weinland Park is achieving long-term health and stability. The Report finds that as a result of investments, Weinland Park is improving; however, the neighborhood has not yet reached a sustainable level of health, and coordinated programs and investments should continue to support long-term vibrancy. Additionally, the Report finds that Weinland Park is not exhibiting signs of gentrification, such as rapidly increasing home values and income levels, shifting demographics, or frequent repeat sales of homes.

Weinland Park, a neighborhood one mile north of downtown Columbus, has benefited from the asset of nearby anchor institution, The Ohio State University (OSU), and the decision of government and philanthropic investors to take a leadership role in revitalization by targeting resources in the neighborhood. Weinland Park has received an estimated $80 million of investments in housing and infrastructure improvements from government and philanthropic partners over the last decade. Many key investments have been facilitated by members of the Weinland Park Collaborative, a group of stakeholders that includes residents, investors, and other public and private entities interested in improving and sustaining the quality of life in the community.

Over the last year, GOPC gathered and analyzed data and benchmarked Weinland Park to other neighborhoods in Columbus, considering key data such as vacancy and rental rates, housing values, income distribution, and the level of affordable housing. The findings are as follows:

Finding 1: Weinland Park is exhibiting increased stability. Housing values in Weinland Park are becoming more evenly distributed. A range of rental options in Weinland Park also offers housing for residents at a variety of income levels. In addition, the neighborhood has experienced decreased vacancy from almost 19% in 2000 to almost 17% in 2012. While beyond the analytical scope of the report, it is also evident that non-housing investments are contributing to neighborhood stabilization.

Finding 2: By standard data, Weinland Park does not yet constitute a sustainable, healthy neighborhood; however, unique neighborhood factors complicate the analysis. While Weinland Parks’ vacancy rate has improved, it is still high in comparison to other healthy neighborhoods. Household income levels are concentrated in lower income brackets. Also, the neighborhood has an extremely low homeownership rate of 9%. This data is complicated by the number of students living in the neighborhood, the prevalence of subsidized housing, the high number of duplexes, and the number of vacant properties awaiting redevelopment. Given these complicating factors, together with the improvements identified in Finding 1, it is likely that Weinland Park’s level of health is greater than the data reflects and that its positive trajectory will continue, particularly given stakeholder involvement.

Finding 3: Weinland Park is not exhibiting signs of gentrification and inherent factors are likely to prevent gentrification over time. While no data set clearly explains why people move out of the neighborhood, indicators that gentrification is occurring include rapidly increasing home values, repeat sales of homes, increasing income levels, and rapidly shifting demographics. These indicators are not evident in data sets for Weinland Park.

The Report also offers recommendations to inform future decisions and investments that would bolster existing investments. Recommendations include best practices and tools for continuing to improve the neighborhood’s public image, working with landlords, reducing vacancy, and increasing home ownership.

While the Columbus metropolitan region’s economy is generally stronger than those of other Ohio cities, many of its older neighborhoods, like Weinland Park, face challenges similar to those in cities throughout the state, such as longer-term declining employment opportunities, population loss, and the related increases in poverty and vacancy rates. The story of Weinland Park is a remarkable one that continues to inspire many community developers, urban pioneers, and citizen leaders. Stakeholders have rallied around a common vision. The community is actively engaged in its transformation, and philanthropic and government partners coordinate regularly with one another and with residents.

News coverage of the report:

"Weinland Park gains go slowly"
      Columbus Dispatch - 3/23/2014
      Reporter Mark Ferenchik

"Weinland Park Effort Will Pay Off"
      Columbus Dispatch - 9/15/2013