Columbus renews controversial affordable housing tax credit policy

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

why is it important: The controversial policy is seen as a way to encourage construction of new properties amid a citywide housing shortage.

State of play: Columbus is offering developers a 100% property tax abatement over 15 years to build in neighborhoods in dire need of affordable housing.

  • In most of these neighborhoods, tax breaks were conditional on developers setting aside 20% of units for affordable housing based on the area’s median income.
  • Landowners must reimburse the city if they fall below their benchmark.

Yes, but: The policy also allows sponsors to pay a fee in advance in lieu of providing some or all of the units otherwise required of them.

The last: City Council voted on Monday to expand available tax credits to more neighborhoods, expand affordable housing requirements and increase fees paid in lieu of building such units.

The context: Columbus reviews its residential tax abatement policy every three years to reevaluate eligible neighborhoods and adjust housing mandates.

What they say: Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, tells Axios that she supports any policy aimed at boosting the local housing stock.

  • “This unmet need is increasing by the minute and it’s affecting everyone,” she says.

The other side: Critics think it’s wrong for the city to provide tax credits to developers who purchase their means of providing affordable housing.

  • Council member Shayla Favor, who chairs the housing committee, acknowledged at Monday’s meeting that politics is “not always popular and can bring out polarized views”, but said it will ultimately help alleviate the city’s housing deficit.

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