The high cost of housing in central Ohio -- and what can be done to address the issue -- will be the topic of the next forum in an ongoing series sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus.
The event, titled "Barriers to Affordable Housing," is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28, in the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road.
League member Amy Klaben, who said she has been involved in the effort to provide more affordable housing for three decades, will serve as moderator.
Panel members will include Erik Janas, Franklin County's deputy administrator; Rita Parise, housing administrator for the city of Columbus; Jeffrey Woda, principal of Woda Cooper Cos., developers, general contractors and property managers; and Allison Srail, director of finance for Crawford Hoying.
"I hope that people better understand what the barriers are and they understand that they need to play a role in helping our community overcome those barriers," Klaben said.
"I think this particular forum brings in a broad view of affordable-housing barriers," said Mary Kaul, a member of the league's land-use committee, which is sponsoring the eighth entry in the series.
"We are hoping that they can offer possible solutions about what we as citizens can do."
Several previous lectures in the series were held at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
"I would say also that we would hope that the people who are at the program begin to have a better sense of not only what affordable housing is but the fact that, for instance, multifamily housing or housing on smaller lots that might be possible ... would continue to bring in responsible residents and citizens," said Judith Y. Brachman of the land-use committee.
In other words, she said, people shouldn't fear the kinds of residents who need help paying for housing or what their presence in a community or a neighborhood might mean.
"The lack of interest in these social needs by the federal government has pushed local and state governments to try to solve some of these problems, and that, over the next five years, is going to change the dynamics of affordable housing," said league member Kit Logsdon.
The barriers to building more affordable housing depend on who is framing the discussion.
"Homebuilders today face costly challenges in these times of expanding impact fees, punitive regulations such as inclusionary zoning, lengthy approval processes and costly permitting procedures which combine to drive up the cost of housing," according to the website of the National Association of Home Builders.
"Many areas of the country have an undersupply of affordable housing," according to the website of Burnham Nationwide, a permit and building-code consulting firm. "This is particularly true in municipalities seeing a surge in population growth that is causing a shortage of housing. In addition to a housing shortfall, housing costs in many of the nation's cities outpace wages. Yet, numerous states and local jurisdictions are relying on outdated housing regulations that create barriers to housing development, in particular, the construction of affordable housing.
"Redesigning some local requirements to be more flexible, such those governing density and building heights, will allow developers to avoid applying for variances or seeking rezoning. Usually, the review process for variances and rezoning is lengthy and expensive, and developers are less liable to take on these additional costs and risks for affordable housing."
"This issue is not going away with our growing population," Klaben said.
"I think we'll be back on this topic."