Pilot Program Helps Low-Income Moms Relocate to Suburbs
Ten families will be moving from “low opportunity” neighborhoods to suburban apartments this August as part of the initial pilot of the Move to Prosper program. An initiative of the City and Regional Planning program at Ohio State University, the program will provide rental assistance and personal coaching to the families to support their transition.
Organizers hope that the pilot will eventually grow into a larger, 100-family demonstration project. The goal is to tackle the issues of affordable housing and economic segregation from the people-oriented side of the equation; as opposed to place-oriented approaches that work to improve struggling neighborhoods.
Project Facilitator Amy Klaben said that the individuals and organizations involved in the pilot all understand the importance of building new affordable housing and working to improve central city neighborhoods, but they also want to respond to the more immediate needs of women looking for safe places to raise their children.
“This whole process has created a conversation in the community about the need for two strategies,” she said, pointing to research that shows improved outcomes for children who lived for even just a few years in neighborhoods with better schools and access to jobs. “One strategy is to revitalize neighborhoods, and the other is a people strategy, to enable people to live where there’s opportunity.”
Urban researcher and author Richard Florida, in an interview with Columbus Underground last fall, also argued that both approaches are needed if cities want to increase economic mobility.
“I think that people are beginning to question, ‘are we creating a city we want to be living in 20 years from now?'” Klaben said. “And our program is part of that conversation.”
The pilot program will run for three years, and will place families in two-bedroom apartments – each located on a bus line – in the Hilliard, Dublin, Olentangy and Gahanna school districts. Klaben said that landlords in other areas have expressed interest in participating and will likely be added in as the program expands.
Funding has come from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, as well as from individuals and local companies.
Klaben said that the program has been refined since it was first proposed, with a lot of the changes coming as a result of conversations with potential participants.
“We had more focus groups with women in the community to find out what they want and need…and to talk about issues that affect them,” she said. “One of them said, ‘we all work at fast food restaurants because we can’t get to Amazon or other places to make more money.’ They want to live in places where their kids can go to high performing schools and they feel safe…and they also need someone to walk with them on financial capacity, on setting goals and making budgets.”
More information is available at www.movetoprosper.org.