Homes on the Hill to improve neighborhoods

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By Sandi Latimer
Staff Writer

Homes on the Hill, which seeks to provide affordable housing to lower income families, is now working toward a forum to offer landlords and tenants a way to improve the neighborhoods on the Hilltop and in Prairie Township.

HOTH Executive Director Steve Torsell said he is looking for funding from the city of Columbus for this effort. He said councilman Zach Klein has included it in an amendment to the budget.

“Many properties have become deteriorated,” Torsell said, adding that residents of both areas have voiced concerns about absentee landlords and blighted properties.

Questions of what can be done about absentee landlords and boarded up houses that devalue other properties in the neighborhood have often been raised at such gatherings as the Greater Hilltop Area Commission.

In Prairie Township, conditions about apartments on Hilton Avenue are the biggest complaint, according to Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker. He also said that improvements have been made to apartments on Beacon Hill.

Some vacant properties in both areas have progressed to the stage of demolition. One of those waiting for a demolition date are several buildings in the large apartment complex behind the Westland Shopping Center.

The initiative HOTH is proposing would be focused on encouraging landlords and investors to manage their properties responsibly. This would be done through a Landlord Engagement Action Network (LEAN) that would bring landlords and residents together in an attempt to improve the quality of neighborhoods. LEAN would also establish regular educational activities for property owners and tenants.

Leading the project would be a steering committee with representatives from responsible landlords, code enforcement neighborhood leaders, and neighborhood groups such as area commissions, civic associations and block watches.

Torsell expects the program will be a collaborative effort to provide an organized and professional platform to improve neighborhoods. As a result, he says:

•Tenants and property owners are able to effectively communicate concerns and propose solutions.
•Tenants and property owners have access to the steering committee’s partners and resources.
•Community members are satisfied with housing and neighborhood conditions, and show pride, as well as responsibility to keep up their property.
•This could lead to a reduction in neighborhood blight.

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