The nonprofit is taking its innovative approach beyond Weinland Park.
In April 2003, the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing acquired 250 Section 8 buildings spread across seven Columbus neighborhoods. The portfolio—said to be the nation's largest collection of such scattered-site housing—was crime-ridden, poorly managed and an obstacle to economic revitalization.
Fifteen years later, following a $133 million effort to rehabilitate 1,033 units, Community Properties of Ohio, the nonprofit formed to manage the housing, oversees a safer, more stable portfolio that has improved the conditions in a number of neighborhoods, especially Weinland Park.
“We are just so thrilled with what CPO has done,” says Hal Keller, president of Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, a nonprofit financial syndicator for affordable housing and the parent of CPO. “CPO is a very unique organization because you have not only management but intense supportive services. And what's especially unique is the scattered-site nature of the portfolio.”
CPO now manages about 3,000 affordable units ranging from permanent supportive housing to multifamily apartments and lease-to-own, single-family homes. The organization has fostered change through strict lease compliance, supportive services and a public safety initiative called Eliminate the Elements.
And these efforts continue under new leadership. Last year, founding President and CEO Isabel Toth retired and handed reins to Chad Ketler, who as chief operating officer helped the organization grow its management portfolio by 60 percent since 2009. Ketler is focused on sticking to the core missions, while guiding CPO through new projects.
One of those projects is the Columbus Scholar House on the Near East Side. Residents of the 38-unit townhome complex—a partnership with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority—must have a child and be pursuing a college degree, maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher. And Ketler says he's excited about a 53-unit Oakwood Apartments complex near Franklin Park Conservatory, targeted for renovation through a tax credit.
In Weinland Park, CPO and neighborhood partners plan to bring something of value to the former D&J Carryout at North Fourth and Eighth streets, a property CPO acquired three years ago as it and Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment targeted convenience stores.
“I think the important thing for folks to remember is the initial purpose for the acquisition of those carryouts was to further reduce crime in the neighborhood,” Ketler says. “We are still considering options and whether that be with CPO and OCCH, or if someone else has a plan, we're open to different ideas.”
In Weinland Park and other neighborhoods where CPO is active, but where private development is flourishing, the organization says it will remain committed to preserving affordable housing options. “I don't view [development] as a threat, I don't view that as a challenge—I look at it as an opportunity,” Ketler says. “And really, if you go back to the CPO and when we were formed, in some neighborhoods we were the first to develop. So it would never make sense for CPO to want to deconcentrate or not protect the affordable housing stock.”
Affordable housing is a serious concern in many U.S. cities, including Columbus: About 54,000 households in the central Ohio region are said to apply more than half their income to housing. Ketler says CPO is working to help current residents graduate to better and more stable forms of housing, which, in turn, would open up more affordable housing options for those in need. That could mean, for example, progressing from a multifamily Section 8 building to a rented single-family home. And then, when stable employment is secured, a lease-to-own home.
“We have a shortage of affordable housing in not just Columbus but across the nation,” Ketler says. “What we see here at CPO, our waiting list is about two years long.”
Moreover, CPO's Family-Centered Community Change initiative provides residents with lessons on parenting, job skills and financial security, while simultaneously educating children. The two-generation approach—with partners Columbus City Schools, the Godman Guild Association, Ohio State University and The Schoenbaum Family Center—is designed to end cyclical poverty.
“I would say CPO has grown beyond our wildest dreams in terms of the impact on the neighborhoods, the impact on the lives of the residents that they serve,” Keller says.
Evan Weese is a freelance writer.