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Affordable Housing Project Moves Forward Despite Opposition

Brent Warren Brent Warren Affordable Housing Project Moves Forward Despite OppositionWork could start on the development in 2021. Rendering by Berardi.
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A rare split vote from the Columbus City Council means that a 100-unit affordable housing project in the Southfield neighborhood on the South Side will be moving forward.

Council voted 4-3 at its February 10 meeting to approve a rezoning for the project, which will offer supportive housing in a two-building complex at 2565 Lockbourne Rd.

The vote came after neighbors voiced their opposition to the project, citing a range of concerns that included safety issues – in particular, residents were worried about the site’s proximity to a childcare facility, and to a bus stop where local children wait for for their school bus every day.

Council President Shannon Hardin, who grew up in the neighborhood, voted in favor of the project and posted an essay on medium explaining the vote.

“The reality is that land is cheaper in poor neighborhoods and becomes the only place affordable housing developers can buy,” Hardin wrote. “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…I want to see more affordable housing proposals in Clintonville, the Northwest, Upper Arlington, and New Albany.”

The complex will be built by Community Housing Network (CHN), and will provide housing for about 80 of the 400 current residents of the downtown YMCA, which is now slated to be sold. YMCA officials have said that they plan to partner with different organizations to build multiple small-scale projects to replace the housing lost when the downtown building closes.

Samantha Shuler, CHN’s CEO, said that YMCA will be the service provider for the Southfield project – YMCA staff that currently serve as case managers at the downtown facility will move with the residents.

Shuler described the concept of “permanent supportive housing” as an “evidence-based, proven model” for people who have a history of homelessness, or who struggle with a disability.

“It helps people get access to housing, but also to maintain it,” she added. “It’s a great way to help people who’ve been homeless to be housed, but also to be safe in the housing.”

“Safety – for the residents, the staff and the community – in our experience, has not been an issue,” Shuler added, explaining that many of the 1,200 units that the organization operates across 140 different sites in Franklin County are located close to childcare or other similar facilities, and they’ve not had any issues with safety.

CHN agreed to provide a security officer at the school bus stop at pickup and drop-off times for the first six months the facility is open.

As for when the project – which CHN is calling Touchstone Field Place – will be built, that depends on financing. An application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits has been submitted, and the organization will find out in May if the credits are awarded or not. Assuming the project is financed, Shuler said that work could begin in 2021, with a completion date some time in 2022.

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