GOPCHousingReport2014

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In 2013, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), with generous support from The Columbus Foundation, studied the impact of targeted and sustained strategies and investments in Weinland Park housing. Weinland Park has received an estimated $80 million of investments in housing and infrastructure improvements from government and philanthropic partners over the last decade. Many key investments have been facilitated by members of the Weinland Park Collaborative, a group of stakeholders that includes residents, investors, and other public and private entities interested in improving and sustaining the quality of life in the community. The neighborhood has benefited from nearby anchor institution, The Ohio State University, and the City of Columbus’ targeted investment strategy. This Report is a data-driven analysis of the impact of housing-related investments on the market and the level of stability that Weinland Park has achieved and provides recommendations for the neighborhood going forward.

For purposes of this study, a healthy neighborhood is defined as a “neighborhood of choice,” where people with a wide range of income levels choose to live and invest their financial and social resources, resulting in a sustainable, viable market with appropriate market interventions. Based on this definition of a healthy neighborhood, key indicators were used to identify other healthy neighborhoods in the local market and to measure the level of stability that Weinland Park has achieved.

Finding 1: Weinland Park is exhibiting increased stability. Housing values in Weinland Park are becoming more evenly distributed. Given that homebuyers and renters generally select housing options valued within a certain range in correlation with their income levels, the improvement in housing value distribution in Weinland Park is likely to lead to a more economically diverse community over time. A range of rental options in Weinland Park also offers housing for residents at a variety of income levels. In addition, the neighborhood has experienced decreased vacancy from almost 19% in 2000 to almost 17% in 2012. While outside of the scope of this report, it is also evident that other non-housing investments have contributed to neighborhood stabilization.

Finding 2: By standard data, Weinland Park does not yet constitute a sustainable, healthy neighborhood; however, unique neighborhood factors complicate the analysis. While Weinland Parks’ vacancy rate has improved, it is still high in comparison to other healthy neighborhoods. Household income levels are concentrated in lower income brackets. There is a high renter rate and low homeownership rate of 9%. This data is complicated by the number of students living in the neighborhood, the prevalence of subsidized housing, the correlation between renter-occupancy and other data indicators, the number of properties awaiting redevelopment, and the high level of multi-family housing units in the neighborhood. Given these complicating factors, together with the improvements identified in Finding 1, it is likely that Weinland Park’s level of health is greater than the data reflects and that its positive trajectory will continue, particularly given stakeholder involvement.

Finding 3: Weinland Park is not exhibiting signs of gentrification and inherent factors are likely to prevent gentrification over time. For purposes of this Report, the following definition of “gentrification” is used: “During neighborhood transition from disinvestment to reinvestment, gentrification is the unintended displacement of long-time residents due to increased, and thus cost-burdening, rental prices or property taxes, leading to significant demographic change in the neighborhood.” While no data set clearly tells how many people are moving out of the neighborhood or their reasons for doing so, indicators that gentrification is occurring include rapidly increasing average income, a high rate of property turnover, rapidly increasing housing values, and changing demographics.

These indicators are not evident in datasets for Weinland Park. Furthermore, as noted in Finding #1, the range of housing and rental options in Weinland Park lays the groundwork for an economically diverse community, rather than a predominantly high-income community. Weinland Park also has a higher percentage of subsidized housing than most healthy neighborhoods, ensuring a level of affordability for several decades. These subsidized housing units contribute to the demographic balance and when managed with high standards and close oversight (as many of the units currently are), they are less likely to result in negative impacts on the neighborhood as poorly managed subsidized housing do.

In order to address the identified challenges and maintain the momentum in Weinland Park’s recovery, this Report makes the following key recommendations:

  •  Recommendation 1: In order to maintain a positive trajectory, the Weinland Park Collaborative or a neweighborhood organization should continue to facilitate investments and programs.
  • Recommendation 2: Invest to attract the market: continue to strengthen Weinland Park’s public image; improve curb appeal; create a high standard of property conditions; and, foster strong social connections among residents in Weinland Park.
  • Recommendation 3: Continuously monitor the balance between affordable and market-rate housing options, encouraging market-rate housing in the near-term and regularly assessing the need for additional affordable housing.
  • Recommendation 4: Increase homeownership in Weinland Park from 9% to 17% overall, with the goal of 75% homeownership among single-family homes and 25% homeownership among duplex units. This will require innovative strategies for the large number of duplex units in the neighborhood.
  • Recommendation 5: Improve rental properties by incentivizing and regulating landlords and property managers. Incentives for good landlords could include helping them promote their properties, providing training, or offering supportive programs by the city. In addition, regulatory measures could be taken such as requiring rental registration and targeting code enforcement in neighborhoods with significant nuisance properties.
  • Recommendation 6: Decrease vacancy to 10% or lower, working block-by-block and incorporating temporary uses when necessary.
  • Recommendation 7: Pass new policies at the state level that expedite moving properties into productive re-use.

These recommendations offer a menu of tools and strategies that have been successful in other contexts and would bolster existing work. Neighborhood stakeholders, potentially with assistance from external experts, should assess how to implement these recommendations and direct future investments.

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