Boston Professor Discusses Fundamental Importance of Affordable Housing

October 1st, 2015

By Alex Highley

Dr. Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University spoke this week to the Columbus Metropolitan Club about the importance of housing as a solution to many health and educational concerns. Sandel and EJ Thomas, the chief executive of Habitat for Humanity MidOhio, spoke for about an hour underscoring the idea that access to affordable, decent housing is the most critical foundation for leading a healthy life and should be prioritized in discussions of solving related problems. At a time when many people are struggling to pay rent, Greater Ohio Policy Center recently studied national models emerging in Ohio that seek to rebuild neighborhoods tainted with abandoned homes. GOPC’s assessments of projects in Columbus’ Weinland Park and Cleveland’s Slavic Village show that Sandel and Thomas’ vision of rehabilitating blighted properties into safe and affordable housing can be successful.

Sandel explained that the link between housing and health is not at all a new concept; in fact, a report was published in 1911 confirming housing’s vital role as a basis for good health. In the modern era, this relationship still exists but historical worries such as fire hazards and threats of tuberculosis have subsided thanks to modern building codes. Instead, the affordable housing gap between wages and rents is the most pressing cause for unease. Even in a state where housing is generally considered cheap, a quarter of Ohio residents pay at least half of their income on rent alone. Moreover, of the 54,000 families in central Ohio, there are 1,500 people experiencing homelessness.

These stats make for grim reading but Sandel and Thomas believe pulling together ideas and resources from nonprofits, policymakers, and business leaders will allow communities to more successfully and cost-effectively identify housing needs and enable struggling families to afford a roof over their heads. GOPC’s report found that collaborative investments in Weinland Park totaling $80 million by philanthropy groups, government agencies, and other stakeholders have contributed to the area’s increased stability. In fact, housing values in Weinland Park are more evenly distributed between low and high prices than before intervention, while subsidized housing helps protect vulnerable residents from being priced out of the market.

During her talk, Sandel emphasized that interventions should embrace devoting resources to entire neighborhoods at a time, rather than individual homes. GOPC documented that the Slavic Village Recovery Project strategy targeted a “critical mass” of over 300 properties to renovate and demolish, which reflects Sandel’s more holistic approach to revitalization. Finally, Sandel said her response to people who are unconvinced that communities can afford greater investment in reasonably priced housing is: “can you afford not to?” As a result of shrinking availability of affordable housing, we are already paying too much in terms of health services, special education, and fighting crime.

GOPC Legislative Update September 2015

September 24th, 2015

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

(Bills Available Online at

(Bills Available Online at


Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:


HB 134 is sponsored by Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff). This bill would expedite the foreclosure and transfer of unoccupied, blighted parcels in cities with Housing Courts (Cleveland and Toledo) or Environmental Courts (Columbus/Franklin County).  Many communities continue to struggle to mitigate the impact of blighted properties in their neighborhoods. HB 134 provides a framework to shorten the foreclosure timeline to move properties from “limbo” to responsible end users.


HB 182 is sponsored by Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). HB 182 will enable townships, cities, and villages to cooperatively address concerns associated with diminishing local revenues, economic development, growth, and annexation pressures. The bill is a local community approach to solving economic development issues by providing local governments the ability to enter into legal agreements that will increase revenues and create jobs.


HB 233 is sponsored by Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton). HB 233 authorizes municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts and innovation districts for the purpose of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings and promoting economic development in commercial and mixed-use residential areas.


HB 303 is sponsored by Representatives Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) and Robert McColley (R-Napoleon). This Deed Over, Lender Leaseback, Agreed Financing (D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed) Programwould direct the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to administer a loss mitigation alternative for borrowers who are default on a mortgage encumbering a parcel of real property. HB 303 would allow homeowners to remain in their homes as a tenant instead of foreclosing on the property. This legislation will supply an additional tool to fight the abandoned property epidemic in Ohio and help prevent foreclosures and blight.


SB 40 is sponsored by Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City). The Ohio Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program (NIAP) would provide tax credits to individuals and for-profit corporations that invest in place-based catalytic neighborhood projects with non-profit organizations across Ohio. The NIAP is about businesses and residents investing in their communities for catalytic change. SB 40 would help communities achieve place based projects, which are essential for thriving communities. Additionally, the bill would facilitate job growth within our most vulnerable communities.


SB 41 is sponsored by Senators Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) and Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus). Continuing law authorizes a nonrefundable tax credit with a four-year carryforward against the insurance and financial institution taxes for insurance companies and financial institutions that purchase and hold securities issued by low income community organizations to finance investments in qualified active low-income community businesses in Ohio, in accordance with the federal New Markets Tax Credit law.


SB 201 is sponsored by Senators Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights). SB 201 would add “an offense of violence” to the section of state law that authorities use in court to board up properties. The bill would give city prosecutors an additional tool to deal with nuisance problems faced in cities and in rural areas.



Please check our blog for regular updates on legislation as it progresses within the House and Senate chambers.



Cleveland & Lucas County Awarded Revitalization Assistance

September 18th, 2015

Congratulations to the city of Cleveland and Lucas County, Ohio for receiving the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP) from the Center for Community Progress! Via a competitive application process, Cleveland and Lucas County were two of the three communities to receive support in this round of technical assistance. Criteria for receiving this assistance were based on a number of factors including potential for innovation and demonstrated leadership to implement reform.

CCP will offer 200 hours of technical assistance to Cleveland and Lucas County in order to combat challenges such as property vacancy, abandonment, and tax delinquency currently facing these areas. Specifically, a team of national experts will lead staff trainings, provide legal and policy analysis, and publish tailored reports for improvement. The bulk of TASP’s leverage is made possible by JPMorgan Chase’s grant funding support. In this collaborative effort, JPMorgan Chase has shown a strong commitment to neighborhood revitalization through its support for the Center for Community Progress and local communities.

GOPC is On the Go this Fall!

September 17th, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center will be championing the revitalization of Ohio’s communities and metros at a number of conferences this fall including:

  • The Summit on Sustainability, presented by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.  (October 2, Columbus).  GOPC will be a panelist discussing proposed and potential state policies that support sustainability in Ohio.
  • Heritage Ohio Annual Revitalization and Preservation Conference (October 5-7, Columbus).  GOPC will be moderating a panel on strategies to motivate redevelopment and beautification in historic downtowns.
  • Roundtable on Leveraging Assets in Small and Medium sized Legacy Cities, presented by Center for Community Progress (October 8-9, Flint, MI). GOPC will discuss factors that have supported small and medium sized legacy cities in regenerating and flourishing.
  • Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference (October 27-27, Columbus).  GOPC will be a contributor to a panel on the recent Transit Needs study and what it means for Ohio’s communities.
  • Annual Meeting of Municipal Finance Officers Association of Ohio, presented by the Ohio Municipal League (October 29-30, Dublin).  GOPC will discuss Ohio’s changing demographics and their impact on Ohio’s cities.
  • Ohio Housing Conference, presented by Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing and the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (December 1-3, 2015)


GOPC Staff Attends the 2015 Urban GOP Leadership Conference

August 17th, 2015

It is without a doubt that the first Republican Presidential Debate was the headlining event within the City of Cleveland last week. Along with the debate, the first Urban GOP Leadership Conference co-hosted by the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County (RPCC) and City GOP made quite a stir in the city as well.

The Conference brought together GOP Committeemen, State Chairs, and party activists and provided a platform to discuss opportunities to develop and grow their party in urban communities. One of the more notable discussions relevant to GOPC was the discussion during the “Youth Engagement Panel”. During the panel, it was good news to hear that both sides of the aisle will be fiercely competing for urban voters as we get closer to the 2016 Presidential Election.

Urban GOP Leadership Conference "Youth Engagement Panel"

Urban GOP Leadership Conference “Youth Engagement Panel”

Panelists acknowledged America’s urban cores are places of increasing in-migration and reinvestment. It was also noted that millennials in particular, adults between the ages of 18 and 34, have been the primary population responsible for this “reurbanization.” These changing demographics impact policy with ramifications in housing, transportation, and many other aspects included within economic development policy.

GOPC is excited to hear that urban voters are a top priority for both parties and is looking forward to learning their plans to improve the lives of those living in urban centers. It will be interesting to see how each party plans to win the hearts of urban voters and respond to economic development challenges so many cities in  America encounter.

A Prescription for Urban Regeneration Part II

August 17th, 2015

Opportunities for Ohio’s Cities

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Yesterday, I discussed Ohio’s development patterns and how suburban development (i.e. lower-density development) and high rates of racial and economic inequality exist in Ohio’s three largest cities: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  While inequity and low density development continue to some extent, these historic trends are beginning to subside as there has been a renewed interest in an urban lifestyle by two key demographics. Millennials, the cohort of people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, and empty nesters appear to prefer to live in urban areas where there is increased walkability and mixed-use development. However, this in-migration of members of the middle-class and affluent people into these areas has arguably led to the displacement of poorer residents through the process of gentrification. However, with many of Ohio’s cities having lost a tremendous number of citizens since its peak population, such as Cleveland, where only half the number of the original population remains, there is obviously room for everyone. Therefore, the displacement of vulnerable populations— people of color, people living in poverty, elderly people—can benefit only if the repopulation of our cities is done thoughtfully.

Cities are once-again beginning to prosper and grow, however, there remains more to be done to ensure that they continue to thrive and stand as a place where people want to live and work. An urban agenda must be put in place to prioritize sustainable urban regeneration. Mayor Coleman of Columbus recently made a call for such an action plan to state lawmakers during his keynote speech at the GOPC’s summit on urban revitalization and sustainable growth in early June of this year. He outlined the plan as including increased access and diversity of public transit options – both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He also noted the sustained need to fight blight in Ohio’s urban centers, as well as the renewal of a fund to provide for the redevelopment of brownfields, or polluted industrial sites. Finally, he emphasized the need for the state legislature to increase local government funds, which have been cut in recent years, to be able to support the many services that cities provide to the general public.

An urban agenda must also include smart-growth strategies to combat the spread of the uncontained suburban growth covered in the previous post. One possible solution includes the implementation of urban growth boundaries. While this approach may not be as applicable or feasible in Ohio as it may be in other states, it has been established in the state of Oregon. Regardless, infill development should take place first in order to utilize open space already available in urban centers. Further options include the transfer of development rights to allow for higher-density development in some areas and lower-density development in other places, open-space zoning, and conservation easements for the long-term protection of natural areas and farmlands from urban development. Together, these policies stand to provide for the revitalization of Ohio’s economic engines in order to be competitive in the 21st century.

A Prescription for Urban Regeneration Part I

August 17th, 2015

The History and Consequence of Ohio Cities’ Development Patterns

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus have more in common than their location in the buckeye state. Together, these three metropolises have the largest concentration of the state’s population. Unfortunately, they also have the highest levels of neighborhood inequality in terms of income, education, homeownership rate, and housing values. In Worlds Apart, a new report released by the Urban Institute in June of this year, an index intended to calculate this form of inequality was developed and utilized, and ultimately supported this conclusion. The neighborhood inequality score, indicating the overall degree of inequality within each region, is calculated by subtracting the average neighborhood advantage score (a composite score of the four indicators mentioned above) of the areas’ bottom census tracts from the average of its top census tracts.  Columbus tops off with a neighborhood inequality score of 5.54, while Cleveland and Cincinnati are not far behind with scores of 5.26 and 5.17, respectively.

Accordingly, all of these cities are geographically segregated, with the majority of the poor inhabiting the urban core and those who are more privileged residing in the suburbs. However, in two of these municipalities, suburban-like development exists within city limits, disbanding the conventional association of cities with urban development. This is the case in both Columbus and Cincinnati. In Columbus, the suburbs account for sixty percent of the households in the municipality, while Cincinnati is forty-nine percent, or nearly half, suburban.* Although the wholly urban city of Cleveland is an outlier in this examination of city density, it remains evident that Ohio cities are heavily suburbanized and at the same time greatly segmented.

To be able to fully analyze and comprehend the present inequality and density within these regions, it is necessary to put it into a larger context within the history of suburban sprawl and the discriminatory practice of redlining, which carved up cities into desirable (i.e. white), average and undesirable (neighborhood of color) areas. The end of the Second World War signified the start of a new era as new cultural norms and demographic changes diffused across the nation. The baby boom that followed the war led to an increase in the number of families seeking housing who were aided by house-buying subsidies included in the GI Bill. This led to the development of new subdivisions on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, many which had restrictive covenants restricting the sale of homes to desirable (i.e. white) residents inserted into the subdivision’s incorporation articles and often transferring over to the deed of the house. The growing popularity and affordability of the automobile facilitated the feasibility and creation of these car-dependent societies. Furthermore, gas taxes subsidized major road construction projects, including the interstate highway system, providing a faster commute between suburban regions and the downtown area.

These developments also coincided with the “white flight” movement that embodied the large-scale migration of white people of various European descents out of the urban core and into suburban or exurban communities. Businesses and industries followed suit, resulting in a rapid decline in the number of jobs available to those who remained in the core of the city and expansive urban decay. The minority groups within the inner city had little hope of escaping poverty, as it was near impossible for residents of these areas to obtain mortgages or loans from banks, who unfairly refused to provide their services to these people. This continued until the passage of The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, and it was not until the Community Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress in 1977 that the harsh effects of the so-called redlining began to be reversed.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the possibilities latent in our cities and the opportunities to overcome and transform this history.

*Percentages were calculated by dividing the number of households within zip codes determined to be suburban by an analysis of its development density out of the total number of households in the zip codes with half or more of its territory within city limits.

GOPC is Hiring

August 17th, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center is seeking qualified candidates for the new position of Project Associate, Research and Communications.  GOPC will accept applications for this junior-level position until the position is filled.

For more details about the position and required qualifications, please visit our Job Opportunities page.

Redefining Cities: How Much of Our Cities are Suburban?

July 28th, 2015

By Raquel Jones, GOPC Intern

Cities are typically defined as centers of population, commerce, and culture. For this reason, they are often associated with dense urban development. However, there are many cities across the nation that do not conform to this description.

In a recent dataset compiled by Jed Kolko, the former chief economist of the real estate website Trulia, zip codes across the county were classified into three categories: urban, suburban, or rural. These classifications were developed using a series of metrics, including the density of households, business establishments, and jobs, as well as the share of auto communities and single-family homes in the specified area. Since the United States has no official definition of a suburb (even the U.S. Census Bureau lumps together urban and suburban neighborhoods in how it defines urban areas), these measures help to quantify the notion of a suburb as a mostly residential, car-dependent society consisting of single-family homes, as opposed to a more compact urban center.

According to this data, three of America’s largest cities – Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Diego – are predominantly suburban. Columbus, Ohio’s largest and most populous city and the fifteenth largest city in the U.S., similarly displayed a majority of suburban areas within the city limits. Moreover, the new census population data shows that the fastest-growing large cities tend to be more suburban.

Density Chart

*Only zip codes that have half or more of their territory within city limits were included in these calculations. For a complete list of the zip codes for each city utilized in this dataset, please see below.

Analysis of two of Ohio’s other major cities, Cleveland and Cincinnati, unveil different trends. By calculating the share of suburban and urban households in the city, Cincinnati was found to be nearly divided with 51% of households in urban settings and 49% in the suburbs. Cleveland was determined to be entirely urban, as is also true of Chicago and New York.

The notable differences in the density of Ohio’s three largest cities are representative of the diverse make-up of cities across the state. As the physical structure of cities continues to evolve and expand, it’s imperative that we continue supporting sustainable growth in our cities and regions so that the state can remain economically competitive in the 21st century.

Trulia Resources:,,, (

This blog post was inspired by research conducted by Community Research Partners for their July 2015 DataByte on Columbus’ density, which was featured in the Columbus Dispatch. To read more about density in America’s cities, take a look at the original blog post by Trulia’s former chief economist, Jed Kolko, here




  • Cincinnati: 45202, 45203, 45204, 45205, 45206, 45207, 45208, 45209, 45211, 45212, 45213, 45214, 45216, 45217, 45219, 45220, 45223, 45224, 45225, 45226, 45227, 45229, 45230, 45232, 45237
  • Cleveland: 44102, 44103, 44104, 44105, 44106, 44108, 44109, 44110, 44111, 44113, 44114, 44115, 44119, 44120, 44127, 44128, 44135
  • Columbus: 43085, 43201, 43202, 43203, 43204, 43205, 43206, 43207, 43209, 43210, 43211, 43212, 43213, 43214, 43215, 43219, 43220, 43221, 43222, 43223, 43224, 43227, 43228, 43229, 43231, 43232, 43235, 43240

Growing Legacy City Populations: GOPC Moderates at the Welcoming Economies Annual Convening

July 13th, 2015

In the mid-twentieth century, Ohio’s population growth was strong, adding almost a million new residents every decade. Since the 1970s, however, Ohio’s population growth has stagnated and as of 2013, Ohio is 47th in the nation in terms of population growth.

The state of Ohio estimates that in the next twenty five years, the state will experience a net gain of 85,000 residents. During that same time period (2015-2040) the nation as a whole is projected to gain another 60 million residents.

Ohio’s population has shifted around the state, leaving behind half-populated neighborhoods in our older communities and thousands of abandoned homes. To repopulate our cities and to make them as vibrant, economically strong, and attractive as before, Ohio cannot depend on “growing its own.”

Greater Ohio Policy Center joined dozens of other organizations at the Welcoming Economies Global Network Annual Convening last week in Dayton, Ohio, to discuss strategies for attracting and retaining new populations, specifically immigrant and refugee groups. Legacy cities across the country—including Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Dayton—are actively working to create welcoming environments for new residents. These residents are renovating abandoned houses, starting businesses, farming urban plots, shopping in local stores, and contributing to the regeneration of legacy city neighborhoods.

GOPC moderated the panel, “Neighborhood Revitalization: The Immigrant/Refugee Opportunity” and opened a discussion by briefly discussing Ohio’s current demographics. That information can be found here.

Panelists then spoke about programs in Detroit that are working to help place people in land bank-owned homes in three diverse working class neighborhoods, how the city of Dayton is supporting Ahiska Turks who are revitalizing the Old North Dayton neighborhood, and plans the city of Cleveland has in development to build a refugee-focused neighborhood around a school that serves students who are learning English.

In each city, immigrants are pumping millions of dollars into the economy, creating energy and nodes of economic activity that will be critical for the “come back” of these cities.

More information about the Welcoming Economies Global Network can be found here.