HOUS­ING

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Un­der the planned pi­lot pro­gram, which must be ap­proved by City Coun­cil, de­vel­op­ers would build about 40 houses over two years, in­clud­ing 30 this year. The city then would pay the de­vel­oper to re­duce the price of the home to make it af­ford­able for a house­hold earn­ing be­tween $40,000 and $80,000 a year.

The city land bank ex­pects the av­er­age price of those homes to be $240,000. Un­der the pro­posed pro­gram, if a de­vel­oper built a $240,000 house on one of the prop­er­ties but a buyer couldaf­ford only$200,000, the city would pay the other $40,000.

The land on which the houses are built would re­main in the land trust, and the new home­own­ers would be re­stricted in the fu­ture in both the sale price of the house and to whom they could sell.

City and land bank of­fi­cials say that landtrust model would en­sure that the homes re­main af­ford­able in per­pe­tu­ity and help cre­ate mixed-in­come neigh­bor­hoods.

“We’re look­ing for ways to pre­serve per­ma­nent af­ford­abil­ity in neigh­bor­hoods that are see­ing rapid change in the cost of hous­ing,” said Steve Schoeny, the city’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment di­rec­tor.

The pi­lot would fo­cus on build­ing homes in four neigh­bor­hoods: the South Side, Franklin­ton, the Near East Side and Wein­land Park. The land bank holds 636 prop­er­ties in those neigh­bor­hoods— about a third of all its hold­ings— but it ini­tially plans to con­cen­trate on smaller ar­eas within those neigh­bor­hoods, where it has 103 parcels.

A typ­i­cal in­fill lot on land-bank prop­erty costs be­tween $220,000 and $260,000, said John Turner, who over­sees the city land bank. Newly built homes in some of the neigh­bor­hoods where the land trust is work­ing can fetch $350,000, Turner said.

Turner said the city es­ti­mates that a buyer earn­ing less than $80,000 a year can af­ford a house that costs be­tween $130,000 and $200,000, de­pend­ing on other fac­tors in­clud­ing the amount of debt they al­ready are car­ry­ing.

“We don’t want to build some­thing that… from a price point stand­point is too much for these folks to af­ford,” said Cur­tiss Wil­liams, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Ohio Com­mu­nity Im­prove­ment Corp., which serves as the county’s land bank. “We’ve been very thought­ful about how we de­velop these homes. It will be of high qual­ity, but not so much so that peo­ple can’t af­ford them.”

The gap be­tween devel­op­ment costs and what home­own­ers can af­ford will de­ter­mine the fi­nal num­ber of houses that can be built and sold un­der the pro­gram, Turner said. The $3.8 mil­lion could pay for an av­er­age gap of $95,000 on 40 homes, but if that av­er­age drops, more homes could be built.

The land trust is try­ing to iden­tify its de­vel­op­ers now, Wil­liams said, and it ex­pects to break ground on the first house in late spring. It is work­ing with agen­cies that of­fer home-buyer ed­u­ca­tion to iden­tify buy­ers, but the buy­ers would not have in­put on the build.

Colum­bus City Coun­cil will have a pub­lic hear­ing on the pi­lot pro­gram at 4 p.m. Wed­nes­day at City Hall.

Among other ini­tia­tives, the city has to en­cour­age den­sity to cre­ate a larger sup­ply of hous­ing that, in turn, drives down prices, said Omar El­hag­musa, pres­i­dent of the Wein­land Park Com­mu­nity Civic As­so­ci­a­tion.

“It’s one of the so­lu­tions, not the so­lu­tion. We have to keep our eye on the big prob­lem and how to fix that. That fix is go­ing to take bold changes,” he said.

Schoeny said the pi­lot is part of a broader city strat­egy that also in­cludes mul­ti­fam­ily af­ford­able hous­ing.

“We be­lieve home­own­er­ship is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of neigh­bor­hood sta­bil­ity and hav­ing peo­ple who are truly and fi­nan­cially in­vested in the neigh­bor­hood in a way that is dif­fer­ent for folks who aren’t home­own­ers,” he said.

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