How to Become Part of the Solution for the Affordable Housing Crisis in Columbus and Beyond, and Architecture’s Responsibility in Designing Differently

September 13, 2022
Rolando Matias Market Lead/Design Strategist - Affordable Housing

Information was just released about the $1.5 billion bond issue on the November ballot, which includes $200 M to expand affordable housing – 4x more than what was proposed in 2019.

These funds, in addition to the $50 million in bond money approved by Columbus voters in May, represent the foundation of a comprehensive community approach to filling the gap that was identified through the work of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio.

The numbers don’t lie – see the statistics behind the current crisis.
According to a recent report from the Columbus Dispatch, between 2009 and 2019, a single home was built for every 2.5 jobs created within the Columbus Region. For every resident to afford their home, our regional ratio of new homes to new jobs must be closer to 1.5.

Not only is this a human decency concern, for Columbus residents’ rights for attainable housing, but it’s crucial for our city’s competitiveness – particularly with the introduction of Intel, as well as creating more equity for our communities. With the projected growth of our city in the next 20 years coupled with the Intel influx of new workforce talent, it is paramount that we have the strategies to address these needs now and for the next 20 years.

As it stands today, we know that more than 54,000 people in central Ohio live at or near poverty and spend more than a half of their income on housing.

According to a BIA study, there are 8,000 units built each year in Columbus. In order to meet the needs of Franklin County and Columbus residents this number must increase to 14,000 units per year. Through this fund proposed in the November ballot, an additional 2,150 units of mixed-income rental housing will be able to be created and preserved.

What funds can do as we learn from history to build the future.
The fund will provide below-market loans to for-profit and nonprofit developers. All properties financed by the fund are required to have an affordability commitment and strategy. The fund will give priority and provide incentives to projects that average 60 percent AMI rents or below, or less than $1,200 a month for a three-person household.

There is a great priority to address zoning needs with a more progressive approach of the current Euclidean Zoning approach segregating the land by use, rather than by needs.

For those unfamiliar, the term “Euclidean Zoning” came to be from a zoning dispute court case between the City of Euclid, Ohio and Amber Realty in 1922, this is one of the most important zoning cases in the US defining land use for zoning regulations the lower case was overturned by the US Supreme Court establishing the principles of land-use zoning which is still in use today.

The adoption of Form-Base Zoning will be critical to ensure these affordable housing developments are developed all around the city and not limited to areas defined as Opportunity Zones, or Qualified Census Tracts (QCT).

With MA Design’s current work with our affordable housing clients, including Homeport and Steiner, we are working to design over 500 units that will be built over the course of the next three years, in addition to our work with Habitat for Humanity, and their new duplex models, and the desire to do more.

Easton Place Homes

The MA Design Affordable Housing Team has a clear understanding of the affordable housing programs available to our clients through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, or HUD’s housing programs, with a focus on commitment to continuous education as things continue to progress and evolve.

With great pride, and a deep understanding, our team advises on all of these programs requirements, pros and cons, to provide the best advice to clients on the best option for their affordable housing development.

How architecture’s responsibility has a major role in the future of affordable housing.
A huge part of the success of affordable, and attainable, housing design comes down to the responsibility of the architects, by:

  • Making sure there is a genuine understanding of the needs – both of the community and from a cost perspective
  • Recommendations of resources available to pursue with gap financing
  • Having long relationships with the non-profits, and financial entities facilitating these connections ensure our client and their developments will receive the necessary funding to convert their vision into a reality
  • Value engineered designs that don’t compromise quality
  • Innovative financial solutions to address their needs and how they are best suited for their developments
  • Promoting and encouraging our clients in making smart, targeted investments in housing and revitalizing neighborhoods where families can thrive
  • Enabling seniors and people with disabilities to live in safe homes
  • Helping people make a fresh start
  • Our sustainability service explores cost conscious ways to improve the design’s function – learn more here

The value of an experienced team in the field pays off as a guide to clients through the best options to develop a successful affordable housing project, from single family to multi-residential communities alike.

The question is no longer a matter of “if” we have an affordable housing crisis, but instead “what” are we going to do about it. True to our firm’s value, we recognize that we are stronger together, and for the sake of our city, and our communities, we must join together in committing to be a part of the solution.

If you’d like to be a part of solving for the future, giving families in Columbus not only a house, but a home, and future-proofing our city for the growth to propel us forward, please contact me at rolandom@designwithma.com.

Our Affordable Housing Team mission is to ensure that our LIHTC (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit) Housing design will improve lives, and create dignified communities for all users, as we improve on the local housing needs, and beyond.

Let’s have conversations that can truly create space for change in the world of affordable housing and beyond, together.