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  • Doug Smith

Housing: What is affordable?

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Last Fall I wrote an article about affordable housing in Worthington, and asked for community feedback about what affordable means to each individual. The overall feedback was varied but the feedback on affordable price points ranged from $700 to $1,400 for a monthly rental.

In the central Ohio housing market, builders and property managers are taking full advantage of the demand by increasing rates. A simple search for apartments in central Ohio results in studio apartments starting at $1,100/month. In Worthington, I analyzed this in my Fall article and providing pricing for rentals in our city.

As Council takes up the issue this Fall, a question to residents I have is: Does the city have a responsibility to work with property managers and developers to drive down housing prices?

Adding more housing does not equate to more affordable housing. With the new affordable housing at Stafford Village (The Hartford), the market rate units are expected to go for $3,500/month while the “affordable” units are maintained at the federal formula rate, expected to be approximately $1,000/month.

If the city has a responsibility to keep housing costs low, a handful of tools exist for municipalities.

Over the Summer, the state government passed legislation preventing municipalities from imposing rent control policies. Whereas this may have been an easy way to help keep costs at bay, the city has no authority to do this.

Another tool is to work with developers to require a certain percentage of affordable-based housing units - similar to the Stafford Village model. This type of request often comes down to project economics and a back-and-forth between the city and the developer to determine the financial impact of materials and code requirements.

A more recent tool implemented by the city of Columbus could be used to help control and predict construction costs. This would be in the form of a bond to be used by the city to help mitigate construction costs for projects the community wants to see built in Worthington. This would require a ballot vote for the public to decide and many details would have to be figured out and communicated prior to a vote. However, it would be a way for the city to entice responsible developers to build desired housing products.

Or maybe the community doesn’t feel the city should get involved in housing rate setting. Maybe residents simply want the market forces to dictate housing prices. I’m open to feedback and suggestions either way. Now is the to share your thoughts.


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