Mixed-income housing can be successful, if done well.

Mixed-income housing can be successful, if done well.

The day after Memorial Day, dedicated attendees of the Columbus Housing Dialogue group met to discuss and to learn about mixed-income housing. Section Head and Professor of City & Regional Planning at Ohio State’s Knowlton School, Rachel Kleit started the session with a brief overview of what mixed-income housing means.

“Mixed-income means a community, development, or building where some of the homes are reserved for low-income or very low-income households,” Kleit said. “But what does it mean to do mixed-income housing development well?”

To get a practitioner’s perspective on mixed-income housing, the Dialogue heard next from housing professionals at the City of Columbus and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH). Joe Pimmel, VP of Organization Development at OCCH, discussed the organization’s diverse affordable housing portfolio across the state. “Earlier attempts to encourage mixed income housing,” Joe said, “did not yield good results.”

According to OCCH data, the typical mixed income development from 1999-2004 contained just 10-20% market-rate units. Today, mixed-income developments that are considered successful usually feature a more balanced ratio of subsidized and unsubsidized housing products.

Rita Parise, currently the housing administrator for the City of Columbus, discussed her experience in the pre-foreclosure crisis years of 1999-2000 while employed at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. “At the time,” she said, “it seemed like a good idea to diversify the portfolio. However, the market was pushing for homeownership. Consequently, the rental vacancy rates were at an all-time high. Market-rate rentals were very affordable at the time. There was a real disincentive for people to voluntarily live in an affordable housing community and pay more rent, especially when market rate rents were affordable.”

This circumstance resulted in achievable rents never matching the projected amounts, thus leading to less operating income. The units did lease up, but just not at the expected rents. This situation left many with a negative perception of mixed-income projects.

CASE STUDY

Poindexter Village | Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority

1940: 1st public housing in Columbus
Replaced Blackberry Patch neighborhood
Initial vision to house working class African-Americans
Over time:
Deferred maintenance
High operating costs — not enough revenue
Far too deteriorated for rehabilitation
High unemployment, little opportunity
Haven for crime and drugs
Concentration of poverty
Layout prevented community connection
Housing of last resort

CHOICE Neighborhood Grant

$30 million grant, with $225 million in leverage from HUD to CMHA
Received in January 2012
Brought in experienced developer/manager
Wrap-around services funded through grant
Grant can be spent over 7 years
Mixed financing
City of Columbus
Multiple tax credit allocations (4% and 9%)
Bonds
Affordable Housing Trust
Extensive community engagement
Future phases of Poindexter Place will include 125 market-rate rentals along with 221 subsidized units.

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