Upzoning is a policy aimed at adding density. Jason Ford

Housing-related policy often incites the NIMBYs and excites the activists while keeping municipalities on edge trying to come up with workable solutions. The good news for builders and developers in relation to policymaking is that there are organizations at work on behalf of the industry—such as NAHB, Habitat for Humanity, and local home building associations—that are identifying, championing, and lobbying for the plans, provisions, bills, and laws designed to help housing. Here, we look at six initiatives from the past year that impact builders and developers and aim to benefit the housing industry.

Affordable Housing Bond
Columbus, Ohio
One of the big questions about building more affordable housing typically is ‘Who is going to pay for it?’ Developers and builders continue to be squeezed from all sides by land development costs, the labor shortage, the entitlement process, and tariffs.

Tax credits, subsidies, and Opportunity Zones are designed to help fill in the gaps that will provide the foundation for more affordable homes. But in central Ohio, money needed to jump-start affordability came from the taxpayers in terms of a ballot issue passed in May that approved the city of Columbus to sell $1.03 billion in bonds. Most of the funds will be used to finance infrastructure projects, with $50 million earmarked for affordable housing efforts.

According to Columbus Business First, “The bulk of the municipal bonds overwhelmingly approved [recently] go toward public works: roads, water and sewer lines, police stations, parks, bike paths. City government already has well-oiled administrative machines for those types of projects.”

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is still figuring out how and where to spend the affordable housing money. It has issued a request for proposals in support of its efforts to “foster a housing market where every household with a full-time wage earner can obtain housing in the private market, and to effectively supplement the market where we cannot achieve that goal.”

“This is a work in progress,” says E.J. Thomas, chairman of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio. “The grant money that will be part of the process will help fill in the gaps so builders and investors can make the deal happen with a rate of return that will attract them.”

He adds that additional input from the industry is crucial for success. “We’re making the city aware of what would be helpful to the industry,” he says.

Columbus is in the midst of a population boom and is leery about falling into the same housing shortage hole as the coastal cities. According to the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, at least 54,000 of Franklin County’s lowest-income households spend more than half of their income on housing. The region is expected to add 1 million people, a 50% increase, by 2050, which will raise the stakes even higher.

Thomas says builders need to team up, spending less time on the jobsite and more time in the conference room. “We want to pull them out of the trenches to work with us so we can upstream their issues,” he says. “If we want to stimulate more construction, we need to make it easier to get shovels in the ground.”

Read about the five additional housing initiatives on BUILDER.

Read More