Priorities at heart of Lima Housing Task Force’s work

By David Trinko -

LIMA — The quest to update Lima’s stock of available housing is starting to develop its own language.

Terms such as “healthy neighborhood,” “tipping point” and “revitalization neighborhood” took center stage at Tuesday’s meeting of the Lima Housing Task Force as it tries to figure out how to best solve the problem.

One possible answer may be a new type of zoning, “form-based codes.”

The recently completed assessment of Lima’s housing stock by Columbus-based Harsany & Associates looked at the city by census tract, said Sharetta Smith, the chair of the committee and Lima’s chief of staff. Along the way, it labeled some neighborhoods as “healthy,” mostly on the west side and northernmost parts of the city, as well as surrounding townships. That means there is “market-sustaining occupancy” and demand for housing in those 10 areas.

Four other areas, scattered along the north, central and southern parts of the city, were labeled tipping point neighborhoods. Those four census tracts have seen some market decline, but there’s less than 20% blight in those areas. Harsany recommended pinpointing properties there to keep entire neighborhoods from going downhill.

“I live in a neighborhood that would be considered a tipping point neighborhood,” said Shauna Basinger, the director of Downtown Lima Inc., who said she recently bought a home in an up-and-coming neighborhood that was only on the market for six days. “… The big thing when you look at your neighborhood is the blight. If there are other houses in the neighborhood that need to come down, it would help if we opened up more space for other things to come into the neighborhood.”

The remaining five census tracts — generally south of Delphos Avenue, east of Jameson Avenue and north of First Street — are labeled revitalization neighborhoods. Those areas had higher areas of blight, with the recommendation of a concentrated effort to remove that blight.

The top recommendations from a recent survey of community members included developing and implementing neighborhood revitalization plans, removing blights, improving existing rental properties through incentives for compliance and setting housing goals for subsidized and private investment, Smith said.

Part of the solution may be switching from traditional zoning to form-based codes. Tim Stanford, of Superior Plus Realty, shared a presentation about the concept. Instead of blocking off neighborhoods to keep residential, commercial or industrial separated, it looks more at mixed-use neighborhoods where they’re applicable. That creates sustainable neighborhoods, he said.

“It’s based on what happens outside that building,” Stanford said. “It’s about that street, the building style and the scale, as opposed to traditional zoning based on just what happens inside a building.”

The plans also differ from traditional zoning in that they generally include greenspace and curbs in the planning, and they’re designed for walkability. Areas of Cincinnati adopting the concept are seeing growth, Stanford said, and much of the plan is driven by people already living or invested in an area.

“I really like the idea that it gives everybody input,” said Lima councilor Carla Thompson, “particularly when we’re creating these overarching neighborhood plans.”

The group is still early in its efforts to identify and work on plans. There is “fortuitous timing of this effort,” Lima Mayor David Berger said, much like 2009 funding that helped demolish blighted structures in the city over the next 10 years.

“With the new federal administration, they’re now apparently going to be in a position to consider funding for a variety of initiatives,” he said. “It’s too early to know specifically what form.” Trinko illustration | The Lima News

By David Trinko

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