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Columbus Council Approves Changes In Tax Break Policies, Regulations On Short-Term Rentals

Jul 31, 2018

Columbus City Council last night approved changes in municipal tax break policies with an eye toward creating more affordable housing stock. 

Developers who get the most lucrative property tax abatements for residential projects in the city’s most prosperous neighborhoods, including the Short North, will be required to set aside a portion of their units as affordable or pay penalties into a fund to build affordable housing. Neighborhoods would be divided into three tiers to determine which breaks are awarded. Critics, including south side resident Ryan McMullen, say the use of area median income to determine affordability will price out residents in the lowest-income neighborhoods. 

City leaders say the changes improve a tax break system that had no affordable housing component. And Columbus Development Director Steve Schoeny says tax breaks to create housing for the lowest income residents are one piece of the puzzle.

But members of the Yes We Can coalition of local Democrats, as well as community activist Joe Motil, say the changes will create gentrification and do nothing to alter the main problem with tax breaks - rewarding campaign contributors.

But Bobbi Garber of the Affordable Housing Alliance calls the changes a good first step that mirror practices in other cities.

The changes will be reviewed by the city every three years. Council also approved new regulations for short-term rentals such as Airbnb. Property owners would have to provide the city with proof of insurance and contact information, and keep records of rentals for four years. Property owners and rental companies would face fines of up to 250 dollars for a first offense under the regulations that take effect next year. Rental companies also must collect and pay the same tax rate as the city's hotel-motel tax. The city is not capping the number of days properties may be rented. The changes come after more than a year's worth of public discussion with industry and area residents, says sponsoring council member Mike Stinziano. 

Council also approved placing an anti-fracking measure on the November ballot. The Columbus Community Bill of Rights seeks to ban oil and gas drilling and related activity within city limits.