COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A minority-owned housing project born from the COVID-19 pandemic is breaking ground in Columbus, aiming to offer affordable units for underserved communities. 

A rendering of Lasting Legacy’s Mooberry Street complex in Driving Park. (Courtesy Photo/Everett Sanders)

Everett Sanders of New Albany is partnering with a Franklin County nonprofit to construct an affordable townhouse-style duplex on Mooberry Street in Driving Park, targeting a late 2023 completion date. Co-owner of Lasting Legacy Real Estate Development, Sanders hopes he can have a tangible impact on the community. 

“The aspect of seeing something built for people in need, that’s what I became attached to,” Sanders said. “I felt this calling to be able to do it for others.” 

The idea to embark on a development project came to Sanders in 2020, who was one of the millions of Americans searching for new work during the pandemic. Sanders knew he wanted his next steps to benefit minority communities in Columbus. 

A background in commercial real estate at Goldman Sachs and a degree in engineering from Ohio State University pushed him into pursuing a housing project. As he stepped into a new professional space, Sanders enlisted a business partner who is an expert in logistics and investor relations, Fraol Gutta. 

“We are a minority-owned company; it’s just me and Fraol, who is an Ethiopian immigrant,” Sanders said. 

Construction begins on the Mooberry complex in Driving Park. (Courtesy Photo/Everett Sanders)

A shift to affordable development is appropriate given the city’s housing crisis disproportionately affecting minority communities, Sanders said. A report by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio found 14,000 to 19,000 homes need to be built each year due to Ohio’s population growth, instead of the 8,000 to 9,000 constructed annually over the last decade. Conflating the issue, Black Ohioans are 33% more likely to experience severe housing problems, according to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency

Sanders partnered with the Affordable Housing Trust (AHT) to bring his vision to fruition. Since 2001, the organization has been a non-profit lender to develop affordable housing opportunities in Columbus and Franklin County. Along with Sanders’ development, AHT has completed more than 200 projects and provided more than $250 million in funding. 

“[AHT] actually took a huge leap of faith,” Sanders said. “This is my very first project.” 

Sanders said his goal is to complete the Mooberry complex within 12 months. Once ready, each side will be prepared to sell as a condominium or listed to rent. Sanders also hopes the new year presents the opportunity for additional projects to begin construction. 

In addition, if interested buyers cannot purchase the space, Sanders said he wants Lasting Legacy to aid in aligning buyers with institutions specializing in financing and rent-to-own services. 

“My goal is to help others, those in the neighborhood,” Sanders said. “I’m just one man who decided to step out of my comfort zone and do something different and do something for other people.”