Community Properties of Ohio
The Scholar House operated by Community Properties of Ohio helps young parents to pursue their dream of college attendance.
Collaboration and Creativity Make College Possible for Parents
In 2003, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing (OCCH) acquired the largest portfolio of scattered site Section 8 (subsidized) rental housing in the nation. The portfolio contained 250 buildings across seven inner-city Columbus neighborhoods. In partnership with a number of community organizations, and with the active support of federal, state, and local government, OCCH implemented the “Community Properties Initiative”—a $133 million, nine-phase redevelopment plan rehabilitating over 1,000 units of affordable rental housing. It created the nonprofit Community Properties of Ohio (CPO) to serve as a mission-focused property management firm.
CPO’s President and CEO, Isabel Toth, had seen an innovative concept of the program in Kentucky during her time working for OCCH. Called the Scholar House, the idea involved setting aside some units of affordable housing that would meet the needs of student parents who wanted to attend college. “I loved the concept and so we brought it here to Ohio,” enthuses Ms. Toth.
The pilot program launched in August 2012 with ten units in The Charles Building on N. 17th Street in north Columbus. Residents of “Columbus Scholar House” must be enrolled fulltime in an accredited Ohio college or university and have at least 24 credit hours to complete their degree. Currently the program participants are attending either Ohio State University or Columbus State Community College. Nine different colleges are located within four miles of The Scholar House and several have approached CPO to express interest in expanding the program.
The scholars must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 throughout the Program and participate in community service activities. In return, they get to live in the nicely renovated two and three bedroom units that feature dishwashers, washers and driers, off-street parking, and easy bus access. “The scholars are extremely busy,” Ms. Toth reports. “They’re in school full-time, the majority work part-time jobs, spend time with their families and participate in the residents’ association doing various community service endeavors like beautification projects.” The scholars pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income in rent and utilities are included. CPO partners with two local universities’ early childhood programs to provide educational enrichment for scholars’ children. CPO also assists these young parents in getting their kids into summer camps or other special enrichment opportunities.
Thus far two scholars have graduated. The Scholar House is at full capacity, with ten families residing. There is a waiting list of other low-income young adult parents eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered through the program.
“We’re really serving two generations,” Ms. Toth says. “The Scholars are earning their degrees and their children are receiving enrichment programs and are watching their mom or dad make education a priority.”