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Columbus City Council votes to forgive $7.6 million in home repair loans

Columbus City Hall
David Holm
/
WOSU

Updated: April 4, 2023, 6:24 AM ET

Columbus City Council on Monday night approved legislation to bring loan forgiveness relief to nearly 600 homeowners who obtained city repair loans totaling more than seven and a half million dollars.

The forgiveness program would apply to owners who have remained in their homes for at least 10 years after a loan was issued and who have no active bankruptcies or foreclosures. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said 591 loans are eligible for review.

The move is an effort to level the playing field for people who received help before city assistance started coming in the form of grants.

Ginther and Councilwoman Shayla Favor, chair of the housing committee, announced the legislation Monday afternoon during a news conference at Modcon Living on 5th Avenue.

Early city home repair assistance often came in the form of deferred loans with zero percent interest. Homeowners had until they sold their properties to repay the loans, which were applied as liens, Ginther said.

“This was meant to encourage homeowners to stay in their homes since repayment wasn't due until their properties were sold. The hope was that these homeowners would be able to pay back the entirety of their loans utilizing the increased value of their homes,” Ginther said.

Now, the same type of home repair assistance comes in the form of grants, which do not require repayment, which Ginther said has caused “inequities between the programs of the past and the programs of today.”

As other loans approach the 10-year mark, they will be considered for forgiveness and the city’s portfolio will be reviewed on an annual basis, Ginther said.

Favor said that home repair is key in solving the city’s housing crisis because it preserves current housing.

“And because homeownership is the greatest key to building wealth in the United States, it is important to both create more equitable pathways towards home ownership, while also providing support to families and maintaining ownership,” Favor said.

Favor added that home repair should “never be a reason a family cannot put food on their table.”

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.