Affordable housing program encourages minority and women-owned builders

A new Columbus-area program seeks to address the area’s affordable housing shortage by helping minority and women’s developers build more homes.

The program, called the Emerging Developers Accelerator Program, will provide education and funding to developers in hopes they will provide more housing.

Local officials, along with US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, announced the program on Tuesday, saying it will help address two issues: a housing shortage and a shortage of minority and female developers.

“I say to the powers that be, ‘move on,'” said Fudge, who on Monday announced several federal incentives to build more affordable housing.

“It’s time for you to make room for others.”

The Accelerator Program was created by the Affordable Housing Fund for Columbus and Franklin County and is funded by the City of Columbus, Franklin County and JPMorgan Chase.

“As we know, our community is facing a housing crisis,” said Lark Mallory, President and CEO of the Affordable Housing Trust.

“With any complicated economic problem, we need to attack it from both the demand side and the supply side. This program is supply-driven – bringing in emerging developers, especially women and people from color, in the pipeline. As we increase the number of developers, we also increase the number of homes we bring online.”

Lark Mallory, President and CEO of the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County

Participants would pay $1,250 to enroll in the program, which is designed to teach them “all aspects of development, including project feasibility; site selection and acquisition; the forms ; architectural relationships; selection, negotiation and collaboration with a general contractor; zoning; obtaining financing; and more,” according to a press release about the program.

Mallory said the program would be looking for applicants with business backgrounds who want to take the next step. Although anyone can apply, the program is designed to help underrepresented applicants, she said.

“Our goal is to close the wealth gap,” she said.

After completing six months of courses, participants submitted a development plan to the Affordable Housing Trust for review and possible loans.

JPMorgan Chase is donating $150,000 to pay for the courses while Franklin County and the City of Columbus are each contributing $5 million to help fund projects that emerge from the courses.

“In addition to issues with zoning, housing stock and access to development capital, the housing crisis in our area has also highlighted the need for various developers,” said Corrine Burger, Columbus sites manager for JPMorgan Chase.

“Programs like EDAP are important because they address housing, labor and racial wealth gap issues, all of which are key drivers in making central Ohio a more inclusive economy.”

Mallory estimated that 10 to 15 people would take each course, which is designed to be offered twice a year.

According to a 2017 estimate from the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, about 54,000 low- and middle-income Franklin County households spend more than half of their income on housing. According to the Alliance, one in five tenants in the Columbus area did not know in December how they were going to make their next rental payment.

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