Rezoning for multifamily housing positive step

Last week the Columbus City Council took a step that we suspect we’ll see much more frequently as a way to encourage more affordable housing development.

The council voted unanimously to rezone some largely idle property that had been zoned for industrial uses to accommodate multifamily housing.

Vision Housing LLC has plans to develop property on either side of County Road 150W between Arcadia and Paula drives on Columbus’ north side. The properties are west of the predominantly industrial corridor along Indianapolis Road.

The properties also are near several established neighborhoods, though, and with the demonstrated demand for affordable housing, any prospects should be encouraged. That includes changing zoning when suitable projects are proposed.

And in this case, as The Republic’s Brad Davis reported, Vision Housing “says they’re considering a range of housing options, partly dependent on the results of the city’s incoming housing study.”

That study due this summer comes loaded with expectations, particularly regarding efforts to encourage development of new affordable housing options. Numerous community meetings have focused on the lack of affordable housing in our area, and new directions on addressing these needs are among the greatest expectations for what this study will address.

It’s easy to expect that greater flexibility on zoning and land use may be a key component of that study, because we’ve seen such trends play out in cities large and small across the country. In Indianapolis, for instance, 216 offices were converted to housing units just in 2023. That’s one of the highest numbers of transitions in the nation, The New York Times reported recently.

Columbus is much different from Indianapolis, of course, but the point is that the demand for new and affordable housing units is causing cities of all sizes to think differently about zoning and land use.

“Discussion at planning commission was really around the possibilities that a multifamily rezoning could create here, by bringing more population density into the area, and potentially then serving as a catalyst for perhaps some additional commercial developments, which this area is really devoid of at this point,” City/County Planning Director Jeff Bergman told members of the city council.

Meanwhile, as Columbus officials are digging into the data for the forthcoming housing study, it’s to everyone’s benefit that housing be looked at from a regional perspective, beyond city limits.

Are there areas beyond the city limits that could support development of affordable housing? Can the city or other entities deliver the infrastructure needs to those areas?

In the case of Vision Housing, the city council’s rezoning decision is truly serving public needs by opening up opportunities for housing development. Our market is in serious need of new housing development, particularly affordable housing, and the city should explore every avenue to incentivize and accommodate property owners to responsibly meet those needs.

In those regards, being open to reasonable zoning and land use changes are among the surest ways the city and county can foster new and affordable housing development.