Athens City Council met in several committees on Monday night, with members mulling the possibility of placing affordable housing in The Ridges.
The idea has been under consideration for a while, but is just beginning to be explored before Council. Affordable housing has long been an issue in the city, and there appears to be ways to solve it, according to Council member Sarah Grace. She is also the chairperson of the Affordable Housing Commission, which has been exploring housing options in Athens.
Grace said The Ridges could be one such location. The housing would be aimed toward young professionals and seniors, and include homes that are accessible for residents with mobility issues.
At a meeting of the Ridges Advisory Committee in March, Ohio University officials discussed a plan to convert buildings 2, 3, 4 and 5 into apartments. At that meeting, the conversation focused on the apartments being used by senior citizens, with the possibility of assisted living spaces. The draft plan at the time had more than 60 apartments planned for the buildings, each with 1-3 bedrooms.
On Monday, Grace discussed the Affordable Housing Commission’s hopes to increase access to homes in the range of $125,000-$250,000. She said this may help business development in the city as well.
“On average, 25 companies a year come to Athens seeking to establish a business. Many of them struggle, and many of them choose not to establish their businesses here because they’re concerned about availability of housing for their employees,” Grace said on Monday. “One thing we know that is a significant factor in Athens is that 77 percent of the housing stock is rental property.”
Grace mentioned several methods the city could implement to reach this goal, including zoning changes, tax incentives and perhaps expedited permitting for construction companies.