COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Mayor Andrew Ginther is calling on Columbus to double the number of housing units that hit the market in the next decade-and-a-half.

The housing “squeeze” and city-proposed solutions to it were central to the annual mayoral remarks on the city’s future — which were streamed virtually and focused on the themes of safety, affordability, and government services.

Regionally, housing challenging leaders

The lack of necessary units to accommodate local workers is not just exclusive to city limits, but is a regional issue, Ginther said Tuesday during his State of the City remarks.  

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission recently projected that the greater central Ohio region is tracking to hit a population of around 3.15 million by 2050. Historically, as the region’s population has swelled over time, it has also consistently grown faster than the number of housing units being built. 

“We have to change the way we do things. We are going to see more growth in the next 10 years and 20 years than we’ve ever seen before,” Ginther said in an NBC4 interview. “But we’re still only building enough units that we were before the Great Recession, only about half of the number of units we need just to maintain current affordability.”

In solving housing issues, Ginther’s remarks highlighted the city’s regional housing coalition with surrounding suburbs, bond funding ratified by voters that will go toward affordable housing, and the Columbus Housing Strategy, which aims to offer housing that costs 30% or less of a residents income to everyone in the city. 

Columbus is also overhauling its zoning codes, which have not seen a major facelift since the 1950s, but will soon better embrace density, Ginther said.

“It’ll be easier, and faster, to build the housing we need where we need it,” he said.

The zoning code overhaul will take several years, he said. 

Ginther’s remarks came less than a week after Columbus City Council announced a number of proposed housing policies it wants to consider this year — including expanding an accessory dwelling unit pilot program and creating a vacancy-foreclosure registry, among other proposals.  

LinkUS — the city’s efforts alongside MORPC at investing in public transit — was also included in the remarks. A LinkUS-related ballot initiative could come in the November 2024 election, Ginther said.

Public safety: Ginther says “fair share of challenges” met with successes

Ginther also talked extensively about safety in the city, highlighting a number of policing and public safety programs that were met with “a record of success.”

He touted homicide counts, which reduced by nearly 33% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022, and attributed a more-recent increase in the first three months of 2023 to domestic violence. “We have to redouble our efforts there,” Ginther said.

The city is working to actively grow its police force while also aiming to better community-police relations, Ginther said. 

“We’ve made more changes and reforms to the Division of Police in the last five years than ever in our city’s history,” Ginther said. 

Even with a number of vacancies on the Civilian Police Review Board, Ginther commended the organization that is tasked with overseeing city law enforcement, adding that the board has “great candidates in the pipeline.”

Columbus City Council members voted through several gun control ordinances in late 2022 and early 2023, and Ginther hinted that more may be on the horizon — including background checks and red flag laws.

Mayoral election in November between Ginther, Joe Motil

Tuesday was Ginther’s eighth state of the city address. He is at the tail end of his second term and running for a third in 2023. 

In a lengthy statement Tuesday, Joe Motil — who is challenging Ginther — said he believed little of the incumbent mayor’s time in office has served the people of Columbus. 

“Real change will only happen when we have a mayor whose priorities are for the people and of the people. And not developers, corporations and their lobbyist,” Motil said in the statement.

Both names will be on Columbus ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 7.