Columbus is in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. But together, we can break the cycle.
- 18,000 evictions were filed last year in Franklin County
- 1,724 people were living on the street in 2016
- There is one affordable rental unit for every three renters in poverty
Other cities are asking more from the developers building in communities. Progressive groups across the country are working to make sure that newly constructed housing has units reserved for low- and middle-income families.
Columbus can be doing more for our working families. City Hall is trying to use a voucher system to help families find secure housing, but we know that’s not working. Columbus landlords aren’t accepting enough vouchers to get our residents housed. And in ZIP codes with the highest quality of life — neighborhoods with the strongest schools, lowest crime rates and best public transportation — residents are having difficulty finding landlords who will accept them.
We believe we can do better. The recent changes to the tax abatement program requiring developers to provide either a percentage of affordable housing or contribute to an affordable housing fund is a good start, but housing should be a right, not a business. Let’s commit to demanding more from the developers driving wedges between our communities.
Our middle class is shrinking at an alarming rate. Now, we’re racing against the clock to answer the question – how do we address the economic segregation dividing our neighborhoods?
- One in three Columbus families lives at or below 200% of the poverty line
- Columbus is second on America’s list of most economically segregated cities
- 57% of Columbus families have less than $2,000 savings.
We know how deeply this affects our communities. When cities don’t invest equitably across neighborhoods, entire ZIP codes fall into poverty traps. Failing schools, increased joblessness, and higher crime rates all feed into each other, and entire generations become trapped.
We believe your ZIP code should never determine your quality of life. It’s time for Columbus to be proactive. We need mixed-income housing, an equal distribution of resources, and improved public transit for all residents.
Everyone should feel safe in their own neighborhood. However, that’s not the reality for many Columbus families. If we want to build trust between law enforcement and those they are supposed to protect, we must first change the culture of policing.
- Columbus has the 16th highest rate of police brutality in the country
- Our police force kills more Black residents than other police forces in most major cities
- The NAACP has ruled that Columbus police are unnecessarily aggressive
- Make de-escalation and crisis intervention trainings mandatory for all officers
- Establish a civilian review board to hold violent officers accountable
- Create incentives for residents native to Columbus to become officers
Stronger Public Schools:
Every kid deserves a quality public education, no matter their ZIP code, but the current system isn’t working for many of our students.
- Last year, more than 90 per cent of Columbus City Schools students identified as economically disadvantaged
- One in five Columbus City School children live at or below the poverty line
- The Columbus Education Association – Columbus’s most influential teachers’ union – made a unanimous vote of no confidence in the current School Board
Our students, teachers, and families deserve better. Our schools have been incredibly resilient in the face of countless obstacles – broken buildings, broken promises and a huge opportunity gap between ZIP codes. It’s time we stepped it up and gave them the resources they need to succeed.
Opportunities should be equitable across the district. It’s time we invest in resources that directly address the impact of poverty on educational outcomes. That means coming together as a community to name the issues plaguing our students and schools – and it means listening when our teachers and parents tell us we need to do better.
We can have a clearer path to good-paying jobs. Future generations of Columbus leaders, business owners, and core members of the community need a helping hand. We want to build innovative and progressive relationships with community partners and businesses to support the success of our students.
Smarter Tax Deals:
When millionaire real estate and corporate CEOs demand large-scale tax breaks, they’re trying to get politicians to scrape the bottom of the bucket. That money should be going into our schools, our small businesses, and our communities, not into the pockets of opportunistic CEOs.
- More than $160 million in tax breaks have gone to developers in the last two years
- Research has proven that City Hall gives unnecessarily large handouts to developers in the Short North and Easton
- We’re not doing enough to ensure developers hire residents from the communities where they’re building
Developers are already attracted to Columbus. We have all the amenities that make for a competitive market for new development: a highly educated workforce, a healthy arts and culture community, and beautifully diverse neighborhoods.
Let’s ask for more. Let’s ask for every single job to go to Columbus residents. Let’s ask for developers to pay their fair share to support our neighborhoods.
We’re a smart city. We can make smarter deals. We have a right to know what the city is giving away in our names, and what we’re getting in return, and we have a right to weigh in on those decisions.
Politics doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Columbus deserves a City Hall that works for us, not the other way around. That’s why we’re pushing for a modern City Council structure, with district-based representation, as well as at-large positions.
All residents need a seat at the table. We want our neighborhoods to have a stronger say in the future of Columbus, but presently, each City Council member is responsible for a constituency of more than 860,000 people. While Council says they’re accountable to everyone, residents are saying that in reality, this means they’re only accountable to their donors - not to regular, working taxpayers.
Democracy isn’t just for the rich. When every Council Race is city-wide, community leaders who represent the interests of their neighbors can’t compete with well-funded candidates from established political dynasties. Our city is diverse, and our representation should reflect our identity, not just the wealthiest amongst us.
It’s time our neighborhoods had real representation. Columbus is 59 per cent white. Under the current system, every City Council person, no matter their race, is elected by a white majority. Under a ward system, neighborhoods would be able to elect a representative who lives where they do and who understands their needs.
Cleaner Air and Water:
With a president that refuses to acknowledge climate change, it’s up to cities to take the lead.
A healthy city is a happy city. We need to be proactive about safeguarding our health and our environment. That’s why we’re fighting to transition Columbus to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035.
Greener energy means more jobs. Cities across the are country are making the transition to green energy. Their city halls are spearheading the creation of new jobs and boosting their local economies. Renewable energy is a growing industry that will result in long-term, stable, well-paying employment.
Efficient public transportation. We need to make long-term investments in efficient public transit options like light rail to help all our residents access jobs and opportunities.
Better Public Transit:
Columbus Columbus is the second-largest city in the country without efficient inter-city public transit.
We’re in urgent need of better options. We’re past due for a mass transit system that gets people to and from work efficiently, bolsters our local businesses, and relieves stress on our over-burdened highways and parking facilities.
Reliable transportation means a stronger workforce. Affordable transit is key to securing and keeping a good-paying job – period. In under-invested communities struggling with unemployment and underemployment, reliable transit can make or break a workforce.
Transportation is part of the bigger picture. Communities depend on affordable transit to access grocery stores, doctors’ offices, child care programs, and more. A single mother working two jobs shouldn’t have to spend six hours each day on a bus or forego a hot meal to pay for bus fare. In a city controlling a $900 million budget, we know we can be putting more resources toward improving quality of life by reducing transit time and cost.
Want to learn more about the ways Columbus can do better? This article says it all.
Honesty and Transparency:
We deserve to know what our public officials are doing in office – and if it’s working for all of us.
We need to engage residents before decisions are made. We want public officials to be proactive about collecting feedback from people affected by top-down decisions. Let’s have a minimum of three weeks of debate before big decisions are made. We should make it easy for residents to weigh in on decisions; no one should have to track down public officials or do extensive research to find out about legislation that will change their lives.
A commitment to follow-through. Gathering feedback is just a front if those in charge aren’t willing to act on it. We need to establish transparent ways to track whether or not public feedback is incorporated into decision-making. Let’s make sure our leaders aren’t just hearing our voices, but are actually listening to us.
Responsible limits on campaign donations. Columbus is the largest city in the country that doesn’t limit contributions to political campaigns. That means the same people who give tens of thousands of dollars to city officials are receiving million-dollar tax breaks and profitable city contracts. Our leaders want us to trust that their judgment isn’t swayed by the financial support of developers and contractors, but city records tell a different story. We’re saying ‘no’ to institutionalized bribery.