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Central Ohio faces housing, transportation issues as region continues to grow

Three million people could be living in central Ohio within the next 30 years.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Central Ohio is growing and as more people move and expand their businesses here, the question becomes can the region handle it?

There is a lack of housing, and there are transportation issues that leaders will have to contend with. There are issues about preserving what makes central Ohio unique, and also figuring out how to grow the talent base to fill future job opportunities.

10TV sat down with the president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership to talk about the challenges ahead.

“There is no place better in the world than in Columbus region. Intel is an example in the semiconductor field, what Honda/LG are doing in electric vehicles, what Illuminate USA is doing with solar panels in Pataskala,” said Kenny McDonald President/CEO Columbus Partnership.

Columbus is already home to companies from around the world who’ve now made central Ohio their headquarters.

“We are trying to redefine the paradigm of what it means to be successful, trying to build the most prosperous place in the country. We've become one of the top 10 market in north America for cloud computing,” McDonald said.

With Intel expected to start operations in late 2025, the central Ohio region will be forever changed as more businesses follow Intel to Central Ohio.

Intel will need 3,000 employees to start. All those people will need places to live and the ripple effect of that growth will stretch beyond Licking County where the plant is located.

“I see that happening not just in downtown Columbus but Marysville, Delaware, and Newark and Circleville,” McDonald said.

But there are growing pains ahead.

“I think the next five years are very critical. If we look at our energy plans, our transit plans, our housing plans, the ability to deliver water and waste water across our region and do that in a sustainable way is really critical in the next four to five years," McDonald said.

Finding housing is a major issue in the region.

A 2022 report funded by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio concluded that Greater Columbus needs to double the number of homes it constructs over the next decade to meet demand from 8,000 to 9,000 homes a year to 14,000 to 19,000 a year.

Home values are already at record highs in large part because there are fewer new builds.

“I would bet that more people will be living downtown in next 10 years than the last 50 in Columbus. I am one that believes that having 40,000 people living in downtown is very achievable,” McDonald said.

Downtown office space is already being converted into condos to make room for those looking to live downtown.

According to Columbus Realtors’ Columbus moved up one spot on the Realtor.com Top 20 Hottest Housing Markets list, jumping from fifth place in February to fourth in March. The Hottest Housing Markets are based on market demand, as measured by unique views per property on Realtor.com, and the pace of the market, as measured by the number of days a listing remains active on Realtor.com.

In March 2022, there were 2,430 closed sales, which equates to a 5.2% decrease yearly. The average sale price one year ago sat at $318,826. With the average increasing by over $10,000, the average sale price is up 3.1% over last year.

McDonald says as more companies discover central Ohio, demands on transportation will intensify. The challenge is finding the right mix of transportation in a world where more people are working from home and fewer are coming to the office to work.

Columbus lacks a light rail system for example.

“Transit has never been more important. I mean any type of transit. In the downtown neighborhood of Columbus that can be improved bike lanes.  We want to look at using technology whether that is light rail, or that's a rapid bus line we should be looking at everything on the table about how we are going to move people,” McDonald said.

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