Why I voted for an affordable housing development in the neighborhood where I grew up
Yesterday, I voted in favor of truly affordable apartments to be built in Southfield blocks from the home where I grew up and where my mom is currently raising my nephew. Many of my neighbors, folks I’ve known for years, are not happy. The apartments are known as “permanent supportive housing.” They will be priced intentionally for residents who have experienced homelessness and folks making less than $20,000 a year. This is just one of many decisions all of us, whether elected officials or residents, will have to make in the coming years to fight against a housing shortage. We are at a fork in the road to address the housing crisis in Central Ohio.
This vote was tough. This 100-unit development is near a pre-school and residents raised honest concerns. The Community Housing Network will help residents from various backgrounds not only get on their feet but also ensure there is no threat to neighbors. While some new neighbors may have done time, having a record does not define a person and it does not define their future.
The situation honestly sucks. Southfield is a working-class black neighborhood that hasn’t seen much new private investment. And when there is finally a new development coming it’s not a grocery store or a sit-down restaurant. No, it’s housing for low-income folks. It’s not what they were looking for. It’s the kind of development we too often hear would be fine if it were in “someone else’s backyard.”
I am proud of my neighbors in the Marion Franklin Civic Association for organizing to make their voices heard. While we disagree, I truly respect the work of the civic and Area Commission. Their voices have made the project better.
The reality is that land is cheaper in poor neighborhoods and becomes the only place affordable housing developers can buy. I voted in favor of this affordable project because there needs to be a place for everyone in this city. But we need to make sure these projects are shared across the region. Families do better when they live in mixed-class neighborhoods, not when housing is segregated based on income. I want to see more affordable housing proposals in Clintonville, the Northwest, Upper Arlington, and New Albany. I would be pumped to stand up for affordable housing there just like I did near my mom’s house. I know that this Council and Mayor Ginther are committed to creating affordable, mixed-income communities and a more equitable Columbus that my nephew can be proud of in twenty years.
Folks often think housing affordability is an issue outside their control. While there are many ways to impact this fight, I want to highlight one avenue for anyone who owns property in Central Ohio. Affordable housing non-profits can’t find sites for new housing. If you believe in an inclusive Columbus and own some land, reach out to an affordable housing developer. If you have some space in your backyard, look into a “companion unit.” You can build this on your property and rent it at an affordable rate. Housing isn’t just a fight for City Council and a handful of non-profits.
I’m challenging suburban officials, property owners, and developers across this region to step up and address this problem. We need bold regional action to create stable, safe neighborhoods that offer the best chance of success for all residents. Housing affordability isn’t a Columbus issue; it’s a Central Ohio necessity.