Safe, decent, and affordable housing can play a significant role in a person’s overall well-being and help shape their future. New research shows that having an affordable place to call home has a positive impact on the resident’s health, ability to maintain a job, and their children’s education. At the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), we have created incentives in our Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to encourage developers to not only build high quality housing, but work with local partners and stakeholders to provide services that enhance the lives of residents and help improve communities.
In December, we had the pleasure to host a group of officials and staff of non-profit organizations from Kentucky, including Kentucky Housing Corporation Executive Director Edwin King, to visit a recently completed development in Columbus, Career Gateway Homes, which is a great example of the linkage of housing and services.
“Holistic housing models are critical if we ever want to end the cycle of poverty,” said Edwin King. “We must pair our affordable housing resources with new and existing partners and stakeholders to provide necessary services that improve lives and communities. Sean Thomas and OHFA have demonstrated how a workforce housing development is accomplished.”
This innovative workforce housing model was developed by the NRP Group LLC (a for-profit developer), in collaboration with Community Development for All People (a neighborhood community development corporation). Career Gateway Homes is located on over two acres that was previously occupied by a vacant elementary school. A total of 58 new residences were constructed on the urban infill site in the form of a 44-unit, three-story elevator-served apartment building and 14 three-story townhomes with attached garages. The project provides over 3,200 square feet of common space including a community room for gatherings, a kitchenette, computers, and laundry rooms with 24-hour access. Additionally, Career Gateway Homes offers a training center to prepare residents to be future employees and to fill the growing needs of the companies in the area.
The development team created relationships with local employers to offer training programs that are tailored to the needs of the residents and assist in their employability. Specifically, Career Gateway Homes has created a strategic partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital, as part of its Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Families initiative to provide high quality housing, training and job placement for area residents - all in close proximity to the hospital and its more than 10,000 jobs. Workforce training is also offered in conjunction with Columbus State Community College, which provides short term customized courses for in-demand occupations to residents who meet employer approved criteria.
Career Gateway Homes received a preference in OHFA’s review process under the “Areas of Distinction” criterion for workforce housing. To receive the distinction, the developer needed to meet the following requirement:
“Provide a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or partnership agreement between the development team and an employer or employers in the area. The MOU or partnership agreement must detail how many employees currently work for the employer(s), the average salary of the workers that would qualify for the LIHTC development, expected job growth, and how the workforce will be directed to the housing.”
The development was completed and leased up in summer 2017. Initial trainings and classes have begun. OHFA will monitor the outcomes in efforts to inform other organizations who wish to replicate this model in other parts of the state and outside of Ohio. We will also report results on our website OhioHome.org. In the meantime, we will continue to innovate and adapt our process based on emerging theories and best practices to better integrate the workforce and housing sectors.
How can your community collaborate to be healthier and more successful?
What can your community do to repurpose areas with vacant buildings, increase needed affordable housing, and help community residents learn skills that make them employable by local employers?
Sean Thomas, guest blogger, serves as the executive director of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), which facilitates the development, rehabilitation, and financing of low- to moderate-income housing. This agency provides programs to help first-time homebuyers, renters, senior citizens, and others find quality, affordable housing. To learn more, visit www.OhioHome.org.
The Residences at Career Gateway are located in the Southside of Columbus, Ohio. For more information about this community, visit their website at www.ResidencesatCareeGateway.com.