Jul 27, 2022 - Business

Affordable housing tax credit policy renewed

Illustration of Columbus City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The city has renewed a policy providing affordable housing tax credits to developers even in cases where no low-cost units are built.

Why it matters: The controversial policy is seen as a way to incentivize building new properties amid a citywide housing shortage.

State of play: Columbus offers developers a 15-year, 100% property tax abatement to build in neighborhoods in particular need of affordable housing.

  • In most of these neighborhoods, tax breaks have been conditional on developers setting aside 20% of units for affordable housing based on the area's median income.
  • Property owners must pay back the city if they fall below their benchmark.

Yes, but: The policy also allows developers to pay fees up front in lieu of providing some or all of the units otherwise required of them.

The latest: City Council voted Monday to expand the available tax credits to more neighborhoods, broaden the affordable housing requirements and raise the fees paid in lieu of building such units.

Context: Columbus reviews its residential tax abatement policy every three years to reassess the eligible neighborhoods and adjust the housing mandates.

What they're saying: Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, tells Axios she is supportive of any policy meant to boost the local housing stock.

  • "That unmet need is growing by the minute and it's affecting everybody," she says.

The other side: Critics believe it's wrong for the city to give tax credits to developers who buy their way out of providing affordable housing.

  • Councilmember Shayla Favor, who chairs the Housing Committee, acknowledged at Monday's meeting the policy is "not always popular and can bring out polarizing opinions," but said it will ultimately help alleviate the city's housing shortfall.

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