COVID-19 may have delayed an insight2050 Academy on affordable housing again, but MORPC and the OSU Knowlton Alumni Society still have hopes of offering a design-based academy once the pandemic dangers are eased.

The program was originally proposed this past spring, but was postponed due to the COVID outbreak. Along with the  Alumni Society, MORPC briefly considered a virtual academy that would have ended in September, but opted instead for an in-person program later because a virtual academy would make it harder to assemble teams of practitioners to demonstrate the role design can play in affordable housing.

When the academy is eventually rescheduled, it will allow academy participants to build on the findings of the seven-county Central Ohio Regional Housing Strategy, which MORPC and its partners will unveil on September 2. Registration is open for the unveiling event.

The alumni society, as co-organizer of the housing academy, plans to join MORPC in showcasing the housing strategy and making it visible in local and regional policy decisions. The yearlong Regional Housing Strategy does not address building- and site-design, but the academy will provide an opening for planners, architects, and landscape architects to show how good design will create affordable housing that can be a welcome part of communities.

The academy will include an overview of Central Ohio’s housing needs – especially the need for low- and moderate-income housing – and a summary of the Regional Housing Strategy. Speakers will include architects, developers, and experts in affordable-housing finance.

Columbus architect Jonathan Barnes is one local practitioner who has given a lot of thought to design and affordable housing – and who was to have been a speaker at the postponed Academy.

In recent years, he conceived a model of “missing middle” affordable housing – the kinds of small-scale, multi-unit buildings that were commonly built a century ago in neighborhoods throughout Columbus and in surrounding counties. Those include duplexes, fourplexes, rowhouses, and other types of apartments that matched the scale of nearby single-family homes.

His model has owner-occupied buildings that include apartments. He also has created a non-profit organization that would train owners in commercial property management. In that sense, his design goes beyond the physical structure to include a business model and community involvement.

More information on the next insight2050 Academy will be coming soon.