October 4, 2016 - 5:36pm -- Anonymous

For Charles and his wife Melody, community pride runs deep. The two have lived in and around the Weinland Park area for years, and in the last decade they’ve watched as the neighborhood has begun to steadily shift – from boarded-up, graffiti-tagged houses to newly-built and renovated homes. But as longtime renters, the two never believed they could be part of the revitalization. “Owning our own place here just wasn’t something we thought we do could,” Charles said.

Now, sitting in their recently-built home on Grant Avenue across the street from the former Columbus Coated Fabrics site, Charles and Melody are proud of both their neighborhood’s progress and the part they’re playing in the process. Their home is one of 40 lease-to-purchase, single-family homes in the area built for individuals who earn between 35 and 60 percent of the area median income constructed by the NRP Group. After 15 years of living in the house, paying their affordable monthly rent, and meeting a few other requirements, Charles and Melody will then be able to purchase their home at a reduced price.

The project is just one of the many strategies at work in Weinland Park aimed at revitalizing an area that has long struggled with higher than average poverty, vacancy, and crime rates. And thanks largely to the work of the Weinland Park Collaborative – a unique coalition of philanthropic, for-profit, and public leaders including The Ohio State University, OSU Extension, Campus Partners, The City of Columbus, The Columbus Foundation, and others – the neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds.

Charles and Melody first heard about the new housing opportunities through their relationship with Susan Colbert, the Community Development Program Director for OSU Extension, Franklin County. After watching several of the new construction and renovation projects take shape around them, they knew they wanted to apply for assistance.

And so, to help get their finances in order, they enrolled in several of OSU Extension’s development classes that were offered in partnership with Godman Guild at the time, including our Home Buyer Education. Certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and approved by the City of Columbus, OSU Extension’s Home Buyer Education program is an eight-hour course that enables prospective homebuyers to earn a HUD-certified certificate of completion, which is required when applying to most down payment and cost assistance programs offered by the city of Columbus, Franklin County, and state of Ohio – including the program Charles and Melody had applied to. Our Home Buyer Education program is free and offered monthly in multiple locations across the county.

Both Charles and Melody credit Susan and OSU Extension’s educational offerings as being one of the main reasons they are where they are today. “It jump-started us,” Charles said. “We started doing things differently, and we worked on my credit, a lot.” After months of working toward meeting the housing program’s requirements and improving their financial health, Charles and Melody finally moved into their new home, which is situated on the cusp of what is now several blocks of brand new mixed-income homes. “We’re just glad to be here,” Melody said. “I think about it all the time.”

Charles said after living on Grant Avenue for a few years and watching the community’s continued progress, the neighborhood feels a lot like a family. “We are Weinland Park,” Charles said with a swift, proud nod. “This is one of the best places in the city.”

For more information about OSU Extension’s Home Buyer Education program, click here.