May 18, 2022 - Business

Program to build diversity among housing developers

Illustration of quarters transformed into nails.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Building a new pipeline of developers from underrepresented backgrounds could help solve Central Ohio's affordable housing crisis, local leaders say.

What's happening: A new loan program to help minority developers build more homes — particularly women and people of color — launched yesterday through the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County.

  • The Emerging Developers Accelerator Program is funded by a $10 million investment, half from the city and half from the county. JPMorgan Chase donated $150,000 to fund an educational component.

Why it matters: Participants will complete 12 courses over six months covering all aspects of development, from acquiring sites to understanding zoning rules and working with architects, contractors and lenders.

  • Upon completion, developers can take out loans from the $10 million pot, giving them access to enough capital to take out larger loans and finance projects.
  • They'll also receive mentoring from industry experts.

By the numbers: Just 28% of Urban Land Institute members nationwide are women and just 5% are Black, according to a 2020 report — an issue officials say is also true locally.

  • And while our booming region needs to build 14,000-21,000 housing units annually to keep up with population growth, we're averaging only about 8,000, per a 2018 study by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.

What they're saying: "I'm saying to the powers-that-be: 'It is time for you to scoot over,'" U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge said at yesterday's announcement.

  • "It is time to make room for other people … so new people can learn."

Context: Fudge, from northeast Ohio, announced several federal initiatives to build affordable housing while in Columbus on Monday.

What's next: The housing trust is now accepting accelerator program applications on its website.

  • The goal is to begin the first courses in late summer with a class of about a dozen developers, says president and CEO Lark Mallory.

Meanwhile, the city is poised to place a $150 million bond issue on November's ballot to continue addressing affordable housing needs, Mayor Andrew Ginther reiterated at the announcement.


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