A leaking bathroom, shaking windows, faulty outlets, tiny rooms, mice and roaches as housemates. These are just some descriptions of the new home Leannette Lyles and her five children live in. Lyles called the Weinland Park neighborhood her home for almost 25 years, until she found a note on her door saying she had to move out within the next two-and-a-half months. Lyles experienced the downside of Campus Partner’s long-term project to revitalize Weinland Park. With the rise of value for those old and new properties, the rent will go up. Some residents might not be able to pay the new amount and have no other option than to leave.
Erin Prosser, spokeswoman for Campus Partners, said the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is a federal program, includes ideas and suggestions of the community to enforce its safety and upliftment. Weinland Park had a lot of vacant and abandoned houses, which caused the crime rate to increase and created an unsafe environment. As a result, people stopped investing in their properties and new residents chose not to move in.
In collaboration with a contractor, NRP Group LLC., Campus Partner’s goal was to lower the crime and poverty rate and bring in more people with higher incomes. This is why the newly built and renovated housings on Grant and Sixth avenues are income-restricted. Applicants who qualify will still be able to purchase the NRP housings after 15 years of leasing, Prosser said. The NRP homes will require couples to make about $65,000 per year in order to purchase the mortgage.
Lyles, who is on disability, didn’t meet the income requirements. Even though she was one of the community members participating in the Weinland Park Neighborhood Plan, she had to leave.
“They ask our input, they did and when we gave it, we gave it honestly, but at the end we are not even there to reap the benefits to feel safe, to feel welcomed,” said Lyles, who said she felt betrayed by Campus Partners. “They are buying people’s houses to rent them to people so they can get more money.”
Lyles moved to her new residence on 4th Avenue in July 2011.
Most of her life, Lyles was part of the Weinland Park community. She knew the neighbors and the neighbors knew her. Lyles said people were looking out for each other, and she felt she never had to worry about her kids playing in the neighborhood, since there was a block watch program provided. When she refused to leave, Hometeam Properties came and packed her belongings within a day, Lyles said. When her kids returned from camp they discovered a vacant house.
Thomas Heilman, owner of Hometeam Properties, said he cares a lot about his tenants and he tried his best to help Lyles find a new place and even helped her move. Heilman said renovating the building, which was in bad condition, is something he did for the community, since it gives people a chance to have a good home for an appropriate price.
Lucy Waechter Webb and her husband were some of the first people to buy an NSP home. Although she said she sees a positive change coming, she still thinks the community isn’t mindful about everyone living in Weinland Park.
Waechter Webb said most families can’t go from $500 up to $1,200 rent per month. Many of these houses are marketed toward students, who are able to split the cost of rent between several people.
“The line starts to get blurry, because (landlords) are not saying no, we don’t want this black family with five children living here anymore, they don’t say that, but their actions reveal what their motivations are,” Waechter Webb said. “They can be prosecuted, that’s illegal to discriminate for housing based on race, family style, etc.”
Weinland Park offers a lot of room for people to come in, without having to push other people out, Waechter Webb said. She thinks the neighborhood is “not hurting for space” and the goal should be to create options that would allow residents to stay if they want to.
Families like Lyles’, whose income is too low for the NRP and NSP housings, but too high for the Community Properties of Ohio Housings, are losing housing options in Weinland Park.
Regardless of her situation, Lyles said she is determined to return to the neighborhood. She is working toward a degree from Columbus State Community College which will allow her to get a job with what she considers a decent income and fulfill her dream of buying a house.