COLUMBUS, OHIO - Community Properties Revitalization is a massive acquisition-rehabilitation development that spans 209 buildings and 1,075 units throughout seven Columbus, Ohio, neighborhoods.

The ambitious effort, now in the fifth of seven stages, has involved the rehabilitation of 111 buildings and 664 units so far, and will affect another 30 buildings and 112 units slated for completion by November. The sixth phase (35 buildings, 150 units) is expected to start construction in the fall, and the final phase (33 buildings, 149 units) will begin construction next year.

In 2001, Campus Partners for Urban Redevelopment, the community development arm of Ohio State University, encouraged the nonprofit Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) to purchase and redevelop a 249-building portfolio of project-based Sec. 8 housing bordering the university.

The portfolio is concentrated in seven neighborhoods and encompasses many different property types, from a 50-unit seniors housing high-rise, to a two-family house, with the average size between six and eight units.

After lengthy negotiations and a NIMBY lawsuit that prompted the organization to sell 40 buildings as market-rate housing, the transaction closed in April 2003, and OCCH created Community Properties of Ohio Management Services (CPO) to manage the redevelopment.

To realize this effort, OCCH did something it had never done—it became a developer. Normally a syndicator of LIHTCs, the organization found out what life was like on the other side of the affordable housing fence.

“There was no other nonprofit around that could handle this amount of development effort,” said Hal Keller, OCCH’s president. “We ended up investing about $6 million of our own capital in a variety of ways into this initiative. There’s been no model for this kind of neighborhood-based, scattered-site, Sec. 8 preservation.”

CPO is helping to revitalize the neighborhoods with a range of services and a focus on security. The organization partnered with the United Way of Central Ohio, which provided a $389,000 grant for CPO’s Supportive Services department. The department links residents with a number of assistance programs including healthy pregnancy classes, behavioral health programs, childcare services, workforce development help, and after-school programs.

The needs in the area were especially high. Only about a quarter of CPO residents graduated high school; the infant mortality rate is four times higher than the county average; and the unemployment rate stands at 80 percent, CPO said.

Since crime was a common problem throughout the portfolio, CPO partnered with the local police department to create Eliminate the Elements, a public safety program funded through a special state legislative appropriation of $500,000.

CPO set up an anonymous hotline and pays 24 local off-duty police officers to respond to the tips. The officers share a police cruiser that was also procured through the appropriation. “They patrol through the night and early into the morning,” said Keller. Statistics from the initiative’s first phase of 331 units show a 25 percent reduction in total neighborhood arrests.

CPO received $3.5 million from the Ohio Housing Finance Authority, $2 million from the city of Columbus’ historic preservation program, and $12.5 million in proceeds from tax-exempt bonds issued by Franklin County. CPO also procured $150,000 from local employer Nationwide Life Insurance Co to institute a summer camp and holiday gift program for its residents. OCCH was the syndicator for a LIHTC allocation of $9.5 million.

Additional project information, as provided in application by the nominator.

Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be recognized based on the award criteria of this contest?

Q. How does this project represent an innovative solution to a specific development challenge?

The following response answers both questions – there was no differentiation in the application. A. Community Project Revitalization I (CPRI) is the first phase of a $100 million community development effort to rehabilitate project-based Section 8 rental housing in seven Columbus, Ohio neighborhoods, concentrated around the Ohio State University (OSU) campus and the near east side. Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH), encouraged by Campus Partners for Urban Redevelopment, a nonprofit affiliate of The Ohio State University, purchased this portfolio (known as “housing of last resort”) and created an affiliate not-for-profit management company, Community Properties of Ohio Management Services, LLC (CPO), to manage the portfolio. The majority of the apartments OCCH acquired are located in neighborhoods with high crime rates and poverty, and inhabited by persons with minimal resources.

CPRI contains 331 units in 49 buildings in areas bordering OSU, the Arena District, Olde Town East, Victorian Village, and Harrison West. This rehabilitation effort is critical to the revitalization and stabilization of these neighborhoods, as many buildings in the area are vacant or abandoned and in poor physical condition. The redevelopment allows for the preservation of government-subsidized housing at a time when this type of housing stock is shrinking. Exterior and interior renovations ($50,000 per unit) are improving the appearing of neighborhoods and creating community pride.

The complete renovation of the portfolio is only the first step toward preservation of existing Sec. 8 housing and providing permanent supportive housing for families. The Community Properties strategies for sustaining success also includes four significant components: effective property management, supportive services, community building and partnering, and safety initiatives.

CPO provides support services for residents by linking them to a number of social, economic, and educational assistance programs, through a network of partnerships with local service providers. The Supportive Services department provides linkage and tracking to extensive services, including healthy pregnancy, dental care, behavioral health, childcare, workforce development, after-school programs, and recreation and safety services.

CPO has empowered neighborhood advocates, CPO residents, to act as a link between property management and residents to work toward safer neighborhoods, conduct Block Watch programs, participate in civic associations, and build relationships that support the community.

Concerned about criminal elements in its neighborhoods, CPO partnered with the Columbus Police Department and Department of Safety to implement the “Eliminate the Elements” safety program. Funded through a congressional appropriation, CPO leased a city police cruiser, and hired 24 officers to work special duty at the CPO properties. With a state-of-the-art computer system equipped in the cruiser, a partnership with the city of Columbus to focus on target zones—areas with high criminal activity—and an anonymous neighborhood safety/crime tip line, the program is getting results.

The entire Community Properties revitalization and supportive services effort received extensive community support, including: formal tenant endorsement, administered by the Coalition for Housing and Homelessness in Ohio, a statewide tenant advocacy organization; endorsement from the Historic Preservation Office of Columbus to retain the architectural integrity of its many historic buildings throughout the rehab process; funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, the city of Columbus, the Franklin County Commissioners, UWCO Nationwide Life Insurance Company for CPO’s resident’s children to attend summer camp, congressional appropriations for the Eliminate the Elements program, and more from Nationwide, for a holiday store for residents and their children; and finally, support from many civic and affordable housing organizations.