Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and Beacon 360 Management announce major step forward for new affordable housing facility that will serve human trafficking survivors

Award of coveted 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit is hailed as “game-changer” to help development of $13 million, 52-unit building in city’s Franklinton neighborhood

Columbus Ohio, UNITED STATES


COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Harriet’s Hope, a new $13 million affordable housing community planned for construction at 1567 W. Broad Street in the Franklinton neighborhood, has received a major financial boost that will help advance the project from its current blueprint phase to eventual groundbreaking, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) announced today.

The Ohio Finance Housing Agency (OFHA) included Harriet’s Hope in its award of highly coveted 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) this year. The federal government annually allocates a limited amount of 9% LIHTC authority to state housing finance agencies on a per-capita basis, so the 9% LIHTC process is highly competitive and earning an award is regarded as a significant achievement that will help move Harriet’s Hope from vision to reality.

“This is a major victory that I would call a game-changer – without this LIHTC award from OFHA, this important and much-needed project might not have been able to happen,” said CMHA President and CEO Charles D. Hillman.

“The LIHTC program plays a vital role in the production and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing in Ohio and across the U.S. as it is considered an extremely successful and efficient method for leveraging private capital to build affordable housing,” said Hillman.

The Harriet’s Hope development is a partnership between CMHA, Beacon 360 Management, Finance Fund and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH).

Originally the brainchild of Beacon 360 Management CEO Celia Kendall, Harriet’s Hope will be a first-of-its-kind for Columbus community that will serve survivors of human trafficking. Kendall conceived of the name as an homage to Harriet Tubman, the slave-turned-abolitionist who rescued dozens of slaves from bondage.

Human trafficking has “devastated” central Ohio with over 9,000 statewide contacts to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the past 12 years and 1,214 victims and survivors reported in 2019, Kendall said.

“We are delighted to have reached this critical milestone in the Harriet Hope’s project development,” said Kendall.

“There is an urgent need for diverse solutions that collaboratively address the human trafficking epidemic in central Ohio,” she added. “We envision Harriet's Hope as a vessel to bring hope, restoration, rehabilitation and freedom for our community's most vulnerable residents.”

Tentatively scheduled for groundbreaking in 2022, the new construction building will contain a blend of one- and two-bedroom apartments, a multi-purpose space, private meeting rooms, computer access, laundry access, and recreational/green space. Through a number of partnerships with local service providers, Harriet's Hope will provide a rich array of programming to support each resident through the recovery journey. 

Finance Fund demolished the previous building – formerly the site of a Knight’s Inn that later became a dilapidated Motel 6 hotel – on the West Broad Street property and then sold the land to CMHA where Harriet’s Hope will be located.

“Housing is foundational to stability for any individual, and particularly critical for those who have overcome trauma. LIHTC support is an essential component to developing Harriet’s Hope, which will be able to provide that necessary foundation for future residents,” said Finance Fund President and CEO Diana Turoff.

National data show someone is trafficked every 30 seconds and over 80 percent of them are girls and women used as sex slaves. As a result of human trafficking, over $150 billion is generated annually worldwide, including over $50 billion in the United States.

Ohio ranks fourth in the U.S. for human trafficking and second for opiate overdose deaths mostly due to the major highways that link the Buckeye State to Canada, New York City, Michigan and other places.

While accurate statistics for trafficking victims are difficult to track because of the underground nature of the crime, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office identified a total of 305 potential victims of sex trafficking in the state during 2019, including 96 victims who were age 18 or under.

Trafficking survivors require a wide range of services with a lack of affordable housing being named as the top priority need, CMHA officials note. Studies show that housing is the main impediment for human trafficking survivors to escape a life of being trafficked. Nationally, there is a shortage of permanent supportive housing exclusive to trafficking victims. 

CMHA and its partners are seeking to address the multifaceted problems that human trafficking survivors face in Columbus through Harriet’s Hope.

“Harriet’s Hope will create housing that promotes healing, instills confidence and inspires independence,” said Scott Scharlach, CMHA chief operating officer. “As a housing provider, we see Harriet’s Hope as a community response to the lack of coordinated housing and social services for this underserved population.”  

Officials say CMHA, Beacon, Future Fund, OCCH and the Harriet's Hope team are committed to incorporating survivor voices in the design of the building and supportive services that will be provided onsite. Survivors have met with the architects and engineers on the project on at least three occasions so far to discuss the building’s layout.

According to Scharlach, the most important concerns for the survivors include building security (internal and external), space for private and semi-private meetings, community space for all residents to hold programming, computer access and recreational space. The potential future residents’ recommendations are shaping the property’s design and they will continue to be consulted throughout the entire process, Scharlach added.

"OCCH will leverage private capital for the construction and preservation of the Harriet’s Hope affordable housing community.

“Thanks to this LIHTC award, OCCH is eager to partner with the Harriet's Hope team to provide a high-quality, dignified home and comprehensive on-site supportive services uniquely tailored to survivors of human trafficking,” said OCCH President and CEO Catherine Cawthon.

The LIHTC program was created in 1986 and made permanent by Congress in 1993. The aim of the indirect federal subsidy is to help to finance the construction and rehabilitation of low-income affordable rental housing, CMHA officials said.

Congress introduced the LIHTC program as an incentive for private developers and investors to provide more low-income housing. The LIHTC incentive offers investors a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their federal tax liability in exchange for providing financing to develop affordable rental housing. Investors’ equity contribution subsidizes low-income housing development, thus allowing some units to rent at below-market rates. In return, investors receive tax credits paid in annual allotments, generally over 10 years.

Financed projects must meet eligibility requirements for at least 30 years after project completion, according to Novogradac, a national professional services organization that works extensively in the affordable housing, community development, historic preservation, opportunity zones and renewable energy fields. The requirements ensure owners must keep the units rent-restricted and available to low-income tenants. At the end of the period, the properties remain under the control of the owner, Novogradac reports.

Founded in 1934, CMHA has more than doubled its portfolio of affordable housing over the last five years, including a record-setting $200 million-plus in investment in 2020 that the authority used to acquire or build 1,000 units, the highest totals in the agency’s history. CMHA has been consistently designated a Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) high performer for the last 11 years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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About CMHA: CMHA helps people access affordable housing through collaborative partnerships, promote neighborhood revitalization and assist residents in accessing needed social services. CMHA has more than doubled its portfolio of housing over that last five years, including over $200 million in investment in 2020. We own over 4,000 units of affordable housing and through our Housing Choice Voucher and Project Based Rental Assistance Programs provide rental assistance to more than 250,000 Ohio and Washington DC residents. Half of the authority's apartments are set aside as workforce housing for families earning 80% of the area median income.

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Charles Hillman, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority President and CEO

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