Watch out Christian Right! B.R.E.A.D. rises and means serious business. Acting on the belief that faith in action builds justice and power, a coalition of local churches and synagogues is “Drawing together people of faith to act powerfully on issues of justice and fairness.”

On Monday, March 27th, B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility, Equality, and Dignity) held an action meeting to present their Jubilee Housing Plan and to solicit Mayor Coleman’s response. The meeting, held at the Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith, was attended by over 1600 people from B.R.E.A.D.’s 38 member congregations and local social justice activists.

The Jubilee Housing Plan has three main components: the creation of a Franklin County-City of Columbus Affordable Housing Trust Fund, modification of zoning ordinances to require housing developers to include affordable and low-income housing in all development, and the development of a Housing Reinvestment Plan for the central city with appropriate financial and tax incentives. One speaker summed up the urgency of addressing Central Ohio’s housing problem: “Affordable housing for single moms and children is a necessity, not a luxury.”

B.R.E.A.D. proposes to fund the housing trust fund with bond issue and a $2 increase in the title transfer fee per $1,000 of valuation. This would raise an estimated $8 million per year. The current title transfer is only $1 per $1,000 of valuation and is the lowest in Central Ohio.

The public meeting on the Jubilee Housing Plan was the culmination of over two years of hard work. After deciding to focus on housing and tax abatements, B.R.E.A.D. conducted extensive research to develop their plan. The ‘booming’ economy and low unemployment rate in Central Ohio have had little impact on the availability of affordable housing and the ability of the poor to afford housing. According to Father Stan Benecki who gave an overview of local housing problems, more than 75,000 low-income renters pay over 30% of their income in rent. A third of those pay over 50% of their income in rent. Among home-owners, over 27,000 spend over 30% of their income on housing, with 40% of those paying over 50% of their income on housing.

The housing problem has been exacerbated by federal and local government policy. According to a B.R.E.A.D. fact sheet, the federal government has reduced funding for low-income housing from $85 billion in 1977 to $16 billion in 1997. Suburban municipalities have generally refused to allow the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to develop low-income housing and enacted restrictive zoning ordinances. The City of Columbus has failed to enact tax incentives for moderate and low-income housing development in older Columbus neighborhoods, yet given tax incentives to support projects such as Miranova and Brewer’s yard.

Last year during the Columbus Mayoral campaign, B.R.E.A.D. held meetings with then Mayor Lashutka and mayoral candidates Michael Coleman and Dorothy Teater seeking support for their Jubilee Housing Plan. Shortly after Michael Coleman was elected Mayor, he agreed to meet with B.R.E.A.D. to begin working on the Jubilee Housing Plan.

The moment of truth came on Monday evening with Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Clarke presented the Mayor with five questions regarding his level of commitment and support. Rather than specifically committing to the Jubilee Housing Plan, the Mayor has created a sixteen member housing task force to evaluate the issues raised by B.R.E.A.D. and to provide recommendations by September 30th on local housing issues. The Mayor has pledged to act on the recommendations of the housing task force.

The creation of the housing task force is part of the Mayor’s “Welcome Home Columbus” initiative which also will develop a Housing Score Card to assess Columbus’ housing needs and resources, establish a Housing Trust Fund to leverage $20 million in the next two years and over $25 million during the next five years to address housing needs, and to establish neighborhood development teams to focus city services on neighborhood and housing needs.

While B.R.E.A.D. members were very pleased with the Mayor’s response and commitment to work with them and others over the long-term to provide more affordable housing and strengthen Columbus’ neighborhoods, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kee, the President of B.R.E.A.D., clearly stated the tasks before the faith-based organization: “It is our job to bring pressure on community leaders. It is our job to keep the Mayor focused and help the Mayor do the right thing!”

For more information about the Jubilee Housing Plan and Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity call 258-8748 or write B.R.E.A.D. at 1015 East Main Street — 43205. For more information about the “Welcome Home Columbus” initiative, contact the Mayor’s Action Center at or 645-CITY (2489).

George Boas works as a legislative aide at the Ohio Senate and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio.

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