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Proposal for Front and Long Would Add Affordable Housing Downtown

Brent Warren Brent Warren Proposal for Front and Long Would Add Affordable Housing DowntownPhoto by Walker Evans.
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A collection of buildings at the southeast corner of Front and Long Streets Downtown is being considered for redevelopment as workforce housing; about 40 units of affordable apartments would sit on top of street-level retail. The project, along with another potential development on the South Side, would be the first under the city’s new Housing Works program, which Mayor Michael Coleman first announced at this year’s State of the City address.

The city is working with Brad DeHays of Connect Realty on the Downtown project. He said that the development is still in the most preliminary of stages, but that construction could start in the summer of 2015 if all goes according to plan.

“Our goal is to renovate the historic structures into residential apartments with luxury finishes at an affordable price point,” he said, adding that the partnership with the city is necessary “in order for the economics of the development to make sense; Mayor Coleman and the Development Department laid out a plan to provide housing that is affordable for the work force near job centers.”

DeHays said that project would feature a mix of one-bedroom, studio, and “micro-apartments.”

Housing Administrator Rita Parise explained that the Housing Works program — which is funded from the city’s capital budget for $1 million this year and $2 million for the next five years — is designed to assist with the initial cost of development and reduce the debt developers would have to pay per unit.

“The idea behind Housing Works is to provide housing for those working people who cannot afford the current market rate housing,” she said. “We anticipate that the Downtown project will serve households in the 80% to 120% Area Median Income range – or about $38,000 to $58,000 for one person.”

She stressed that the city has yet to officially receive applications for either the Downtown project or the one on the South Side, although discussions have been ongoing and promising.

The Housing Works initiative is relatively flexible; open to both for-profit and non-profit developers, and with no neighborhood restrictions (although projects close to employment centers are preferred). Parise also said they are open to mixed-income projects, where a certain number of the units would be affordable and the rest would be market-rate.

“We are looking for good projects that really address the issue of workforce housing in the community,” she said.

For ongoing discussion on this development, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

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19 Responses to Proposal for Front and Long Would Add Affordable Housing Downtown

  1. the cruise director April 11, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm

    I’m a little confused about the need for “luxury finishes” if the point of the project is to provide more affordable housing and also not create too much debt for the developer. An apartment can be nice without luxury finishes (I know, I know… HGTV just fainted).

    • Walker Evans
      Walker Evans April 11, 2014 1:09 pm at 1:09 pm

      I imagine the affordably aspect comes into play with the size of these places, especially the “microapartments”. You can have a place with nice finishes that is still affordable as long as it’s only 300-500 square feet of space.

      It will be interesting to see how small they actually go…

      http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/topic/160-square-foot-apartment

    • InnerCore April 11, 2014 2:03 pm at 2:03 pm

      I wouldn’t pay much attention to the “luxury finishes”. It to is just marketing, they are talking about luxury in terms of look. They could put down faux wood vinyl plank flooring that doesn’t cost much more than carpet and saves on turnover cost and advertise that as a luxury finish because right now wood is more popular than carpet. Same with the faux granite formica countertops, wood grain particle board cabinets, faux stainless appliances, etc.

      They not going to go out and put in actual luxury (in terms of price) finishes in an affordable projects. They just trying to make the point that it will look nice and have tenants that make a decent amount of money.

  2. MHJ April 11, 2014 1:14 pm at 1:14 pm

    Great news. Those buildings are real eyesores, and it would be good for downtown to bring some more affordable housing options into the area. The Atlas building renovation is supposed to be more geared to the mid-market too, right?

  3. mrsgeedeck April 11, 2014 1:15 pm at 1:15 pm

    I’m still uncomfortable with the term “workforce housing”. Isn’t everyone technically part of the workforce?

    • InnerCore April 11, 2014 1:55 pm at 1:55 pm

      Workforce housing is just a marketing term. Affordable housing obviously covers the hole gamut from homeless, to the working poor up to people who could almost pay market rent.

      Workforce housing is just focusing on those people close to the top of that spectrum. As a result it get’s less opposition than if you just referred to it as affordable housing.

    • InnerCore April 11, 2014 4:03 pm at 4:03 pm

      Case in point, see the first response to this thread on the messageboard. That is exactly why people try to come up with marketing terms.

  4. CB_downtowner April 11, 2014 2:54 pm at 2:54 pm

    Love this news! There are so many buildings in downtown that are abandoned, so I’m glad to hear this is rehab vs. demolishing and rebuilding. Especially between Spring and Gay St. I walk by that property that’s being rehabbed on High & Long and wish we could see more of that.

    • Walker Evans
      Walker Evans April 11, 2014 4:10 pm at 4:10 pm

      There’s not *that* many buildings Downtown that are abandoned. Though the ones that are empty are in pretty high-profile locations, so they feel pretty prominent.

      • CB_downtowner April 11, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm

        Yeah, I should elaborate…. Not a lot, but for that small of a space (between Spring and Gay), there seem to be several places that have nice buildings, in some cases with retail already underneath, but abandoned residential. I know these rehabs don’t seem as sexy as infill but for me it’s always nice to see these projects take place.

  5. Columbusrules April 11, 2014 3:59 pm at 3:59 pm

    What would the rents be per month?

    • Walker Evans
      Walker Evans April 11, 2014 4:11 pm at 4:11 pm

      Probably won’t find that out until much much later. Edwards hasn’t even revealed what their Neighborhood Launch apartments will lease for, and construction seems to be around 70% completed over there.

  6. Lisa Craig Morton
    Lisa Craig Morton April 11, 2014 4:34 pm at 4:34 pm

    Can someone please explain to me why a single person making $38,000 to $58,000 a year needs my tax dollars in the form of subsidized housing?

    • lattethunder April 11, 2014 4:47 pm at 4:47 pm

      Um… well its not like the High end units near the commons aren’t subsidized (see: LC’s clean ohio grant) as well as actual affordable housing on the southeastern end of downtown.

      So why not a subsidy for this?

    • InnerCore April 11, 2014 4:54 pm at 4:54 pm

      It’s beneficial to have housing price points of all ranges available so a range of different people can afford to live there. As a result you have more stable neighborhoods and reduce on the other public cost to move people from place to place.

      For example right now let’s say someone is living in a house in the suburbs and drives in to downtown. They live in a house and got an FHA backed loan. So, they already recieved a subsidy on their home, then they drive each day on public roadways that are again subsidized. They also use their mortgage payment to reduce their tax burden which is again a subsidy.

      Now market rate developers only build toward the top of the market. A program like this would provide a cash incentive to the developer upfront to reduce his cost and in return he agrees to rent units at below market rate pricing. And in the process you take an underutilized lot that isn’t paying much in taxes and transform it into a developed lot paying more in taxes.

      This is the thing about subsidies. Everyone always see the subsidies that someone else is getting and never think of their subsidies their actually getting.

      • Columbusrules April 12, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am

        I think this is a good explanation of subsidies that we all receive and I agree that truly mixed income neighborhoods are the most stable. I hope, though, that we also invest in housing options for people making 20-38K and even units available for those really struggling with incomes below 20K. Also, is there hope to develop more family friendly units?

  7. Caleb
    Caleb April 11, 2014 5:02 pm at 5:02 pm

    Great news for Downtown! Hope to see more developers work with the city to bring affordable/workforce house to Downtown.

  8. AMEEKER May 1, 2014 7:39 pm at 7:39 pm

    The best part of this article is this:

    “…here a certain number of the units would be affordable and the rest would be market-rate.”

    which I read as

    “here a certain number of the units would be affordable and the rest would not be.”

    :-) Market rate is a fancy word for the highest rate the market will bear… not necessarily a comparison to affordable.

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