Why Columbus lacks affordable housing for minorities



Mayor Andrew J. Ginther wants to fix our affordable housing problem – 54,000 households in central Ohio spend more than half of their income on housing – disproportionately affecting minorities.

The median income of black households in Columbus is $ 35,569, 40% less than that of white households, and nearly 40% of black workers earn just $ 15,000 or less per year, compared to 14% for white workers. .

Jack D'Aurora.

This problem did not happen by accident.

Michael Wilkos, senior vice president for community impact at United Way of Columbus, attributes a trio of causes: shameless racial animosity, government policies and deliberate segregation by developers.

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At one time, it was socially acceptable to openly promote segregation. Baltimore Mayor J. Barry Mahool said in a 1910 official plan for the city: “Black people should be quarantined in isolated slums to reduce the incidence of civil unrest, prevent the spread of disease. transferable into neighboring white neighborhoods and protect property values ​​among the white majority. “

FDR’s New Deal left black people behind.

In 1933, his new Home Owners’ Loan Corporation issued instructions for assessing mortgage risk. Neighborhoods considered to be high risk or “dangerous” were often “re-lined” by lending institutions, which meant that loans were not available. A large majority of neighborhoods classified as high risk or “dangerous” continue to be low to moderate income today. And by chance, the evaluations identified minorities.

The majority of the platter subdivisions in Columbus and surrounding suburbs – such as Upper Arlington and Worthington – created in 1920-1929 prohibited integration.

By restrictive acts, blacks, for the most part, were prevented from buying, as were Asians, Jews and other minorities.

Are there any vestiges of the era of restrictive alliances?


Upper Arlington, with a median household income of $ 123,000, is 90% white and 0.3% black. New Albany, a much newer community, with a median household income of $ 203,000, is 80% white and 8% black.

Wilkos sees two important consequences of years of discrimination. First, postal codes have become a good indicator of life expectancy, poverty rates, incarceration rates, high school graduation rates, and the likelihood of being shot – by in short, a predictor of success in life.

Second, neighborhoods once labeled “dangerous” have become opportunities for investors to buy cheap homes and transform neighborhoods, an irony that is hard to miss. While investors and buyers are happy; there is less housing available for low-income people.

We need a massive amount of rent or construction subsidies, and as our population grows, the scale of the problem grows as well. But we need to be aware that housing for low-income people only poses problems.

Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green project is a good example of what not to do.

Another strategy requires landlords to accept government assistance available for certain low-income tenants. Bexley took the lead when it recently passed an ordinance prohibiting landlords from discriminating against tenants based on the source of their income. Columbus, Westerville and Reynoldsburg followed Bexley’s lead.

And there is a lot of room to be creative.

Years ago, Shaker Heights on the east side of Cleveland proactively worked to integrate its neighborhoods by offering loans and mortgage supplements. Benefits were available to white homebuyers willing to move to predominantly black neighborhoods and for black homebuyers willing to move to predominantly white neighborhoods. The program lasted 27 years and, when it ended in 2012, it had issued 425 loans.

Wilkos advocates more mixed-income neighborhoods, limiting the development of isolated enclaves and investing more in struggling neighborhoods. “It’s important to understand how we got here. It takes real work to take resolute action to reverse what has been going on for about a hundred years. “

Jack D’Aurora is a partner of the Behal Law Group and produces a podcast, Lawyer Up! Columbus.


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