Ohio State University’s Campus Partners Provides Housing to Revitalize Nearby Neighborhoods
Located directly southeast of Ohio State University’s (OSU’s) Columbus campus, the Weinland Park neighborhood has faced decades of high crime rates and disinvestment. Between 1970 and 2000, the neighborhood lost approximately 2,000 residents and nearly 500 households. One reason for this decline was a large and poorly maintained project-based Section 8 portfolio that laid the foundation for significant gang activity to cast a shadow of violence and fear over the neighborhood, causing many residents to flee. Determined to fight back against the rampant crime and lack of investment in Weinland Park and other nearby neighborhoods, OSU created Campus Partners, a nonprofit affiliate tasked with revitalizing OSU’s urban neighborhoods, in 1995. Campus Partners’ first priority was to turn Weinland Park back into a neighborhood that families wanted to live in. Through a housing investment fund and an exterior home repair grant program, among other efforts, Campus Partners is creating more affordable and market-rate housing opportunities to attract new residents while keeping existing residents in their homes.
The Revitalization of Weinland Park
When the Section 8 contracts ended in 2001, the original owner sought to sell all of the properties. Both the city and Campus Partners encouraged this sale, hoping new ownership could spur revitalization efforts in Weinland Park. In 2003, the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing acquired the portfolio — 1,300 units spread across 7 Columbus neighborhoods — and invested more than $30 million over the next 6 years to renovate 28 buildings with 300 units in Weinland Park. A multiyear police operation targeting gangs in Weinland Park also helped reduce crime in the neighborhood, says Erin Prosser, Campus Partners’ director of community development. Starting in 2004, Campus Partners, city officials, and Weinland Park residents drafted a comprehensive neighborhood plan that the city of Columbus adopted in 2006. The plan established revitalization goals to foster the development of a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood.
In 2008, OSU and Campus Partners’ commitment to revitalizing Weinland Park attracted additional philanthropic investors. Through the creation of a housing investment fund, Campus Partners purchased 42 properties scattered throughout Weinland Park. The fund’s initial $1.55 million included $1 million from Campus Partners, $450,000 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and $100,000 from the Columbus Foundation. Campus Partners targeted the “worst of the worst” properties in the neighborhood, buying burned-down houses, vacant buildings, and properties in extremely poor condition. The city provided $4.5 million from HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which Campus Partners used to construct 6 new affordable houses and renovate 14 existing houses. Those properties were sold to families with incomes of up to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI), according to NSP requirements. An additional partnership with Cleveland developer NRP Group led to the development of 40 low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) rent-to-own homes for households with incomes between 35 and 60 percent of AMI. The LIHTC homes used $7 million in LIHTC funds and an additional $950,000 in NSP funds. Campus Partners also worked with Habitat for Humanity to construct seven new houses in 2011 and 2012. The houses were built using $650,000 in NSP funds and were sold to families with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of AMI.
Home Repair Program Helps Existing Residents
In 2011, Campus Partners, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the Columbus Foundation put together an additional fund of more than $1 million for an exterior repair program. The program, which is designed to keep neighborhood residents in their homes, offers grants up to $20,000 to households with incomes at or below 120 percent of AMI and who have lived in their homes for at least one year. To date, the ongoing program has assisted more than 70 homeowners with an average grant of $18,000.
Revitalization Leads to Neighborhood Success
By 2014, Campus Partners was ready to test the market for newly renovated houses to see if Weinland Park could attract homebuyers at market prices. The first houses were sold at a loss, notes Prosser, but they sparked interest in the neighborhood, and two years later, Campus Partners sold several renovated houses for a profit of nearly $40,000 each. Weinland Park also measures its success through the construction of market-rate housing, suggesting that developers and potential homebuyers perceive the neighborhood’s improved quality of life. For example, Wagenbrenner Development, which has participated in Campus Partners’ home renovation program, built and sold 39 single-family houses in 2016. By 2018, Wagenbrenner built 2 additional single-family homes and an apartment building with 150 units, of which 125 are occupied. Wagenbrenner is building an additional 96 apartments and 5 single-family houses. The developer is also constructing 4 of 50 planned duplexes and preparing plans for another 108 apartments.
In addition to the resurgence of market-rate construction, Weinland Park residents are more satisfied with the overall neighborhood and housing quality. According to an OSU neighborhood survey, 72 percent of residents believe that Weinland Park is “getting better.” More residents feel safe in the neighborhood, and parents feel they can let their children go outside without having to worry. Campus Partners’ work in Weinland Park is far from finished, says Prosser, and the organization will continue looking for more opportunities to create affordable and market-rate housing while also expanding homeownership. For example, OSU and Campus Partners are looking at ways to attract more faculty and staff to Weinland Park and other university neighborhoods. Through the University District Homeownership Incentive Program, OSU offers a no-interest loan equal to 6 percent of the home’s appraised value to individual staff and families.
Interview with Erin Prosser, director of community development at Campus Partners, 8 March 2019; Columbus Department of Development, Planning Division. 2006. “Weinland Park Neighborhood Plan.” Accessed 11 March 2019; Campus Partners. n.d. “Who We Are.” Accessed 11 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. n.d. “History of the Weinland Park Collaborative.” Accessed 1 April 2019.×
Interview with Erin Prosser, 8 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. 2016. “Progress Report 2013–2015.” Accessed 18 March 2019; Columbus Department of Development, Planning Division. 2006. “Weinland Park Neighborhood Plan.” Accessed 11 March 2019.×
Interview with Erin Prosser, 8 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. 2016. “Progress Report September 2013.” Accessed 1 April 2019 Weinland Park Collaborative. n.d. “History of the Weinland Park Collaborative.” Accessed 1 April 2019.×
Interview with Erin Prosser, 8 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. 2013. “Progress Report September 2013.” Accessed 1 April 2019.×
Interview with Erin Prosser, 8 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. 2016. “Progress Report 2013–2015.” Accessed 18 March 2019; Weinland Park Collaborative. 2019. “Report to the Weinland Park and Greater Columbus Communities.” Accessed 2 April 2019.×
Interview with Erin Prosser, 8 March 2019; Ohio State University Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. 2017. “A Portrait of Weinland Park: Results and Analysis of the 2016 Weinland Park Collaborative Survey.” Accessed 11 March 2019; Campus Partners. n.d. “Homeownership Incentive Program.” Accessed 18 March 2019.×