(by Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer - February 21, 2009)
With news of the struggling economy, financial woes and home foreclosures dominating the local and national headlines, some Southwest Area Commissioners were scratching their heads during the initial discussions of a proposed 18 acre, 51 unit single-family rental housing development that would be located on Brown and Richmond Roads.
“I think this would be a great opportunity if it was managed well, but within this money realm, what if most of them were left vacant?” questioned Commissioner Kathleen Williamson-Thacker at the Feb. 18 commission meeting. “Would they want to tear it down?”
Jeff Woda, president of the Woda Group, LLC, said that scenario is not foreseeable.
“It is not our management philosophy,” he explained.
Thomas S. Simons, vice president of acquisitions for the Woda Group, said they would commission an independent market study to see if there was a strong demand in the area for the proposed rental housing development.
One big problem that could hinder their development plan is that the rental units will be located near Whim’s Ditch, a 91-year-old man-made channel that runs from Green Lawn Cemetery to Frank Road.
It was made to take rainwater to the Scioto River, but the area regularly overflows.
“Every time I drive by and there’s been a lot of rain, the entire area is just covered in water,” said Williamson-Thacker.
In fact, the ongoing flooding problem prompted 60 area homeowners take the city of Columbus to court in May of 2005. The matter is still in unresolved.
Representatives with the Woda Group said they would look further into that issue before going forward with development.
According to the Woda Group, the rental housing development would be financed with a conventional mortgage loan and equity obtained through the sale of federal tax credits.
They plan to apply to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for tax credits, and in exchange for the tax credits, the Woda Group must agree to keep the units affordable.
“The rental amounts would be a variation of $655 per month, to $995 per month,” Simons said.
Simons added that renters would have the opportunity to purchase the single family homes, which include central air conditioning, large storage spaces, dishwashers, washer/dryer hookups and car garages, after 15 years. The occupants do not have to live in the home for 15 years, but will have a lease-to-own option.
“The biggest issue I have with this idea is it is so close to the floodplain,” said Chairperson Ralph Horn. “Some of my other issues are sanitary sewers and traffic. It is only a two lane road, and it’s heavily traveled already and it would just be adding more.”
Simons said they hope to obtain all of the funding by late summer and start groundbreaking by the spring of 2010.
The project, which has been called Monarch Greene, has an initial price tag of around $9 million.