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Latitude Five25's closure: a reminder of the affordable housing crisis

The units at Latitude Five25 are out of commission in a time they are needed more than ever.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hundreds of apartments at Latitude Five25 have been empty for two weeks after residents had to evacuate abruptly on Christmas day.

On Tuesday the units appeared to be frozen in time. You could see grills, chairs, and other personal belongings, left on the decks of every unit that had been occupied. In the last few days, code enforcement officers have been escorting people back to their units to retrieve what they can.

According to the city, it could be months before anyone can live there again.

“There is repair work going on, they are assessing the damage from the multiple water breaks,” said Anthony Celebrezze, deputy director of building and zoning services for city of Columbus.

Celebrezze said nearly every mechanical system in the towers needs to be repaired -- the result of neglected maintenance.

"Once you get behind the eight ball it really snowballs out of control,” he said.

While the city is working with partner agencies to find emergency shelter, when it comes to permanent housing for many, there is nowhere to go.

“We are in definitely what we would consider and affordable housing crisis,” said Bob Bitzenhofer, vice president of planning and development at Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is working with more than two dozen of its voucher holders who were displaced. But they are up against soaring rent prices -- and not enough inventory.

“We are not building anywhere near enough housing each year so that single-family housing, multi-family housing, we are thousands of units short from what we need to produce every year,” he said.

"Our case managers are working miracles every day,” said Melissa Humbert-Washington, vice president of programs and services at Home for Families.

Home for Families works to find affordable housing for hundreds of families in central Ohio. Humbert-Washington shared one statistic that alone illustrates the severity of the affordable housing problem.

"The standard that we lived by for a long time was trying to get families out of the shelter, and you know, 30 to 45 days, and we're seeing families sit in the shelter for months and months now, because there is just nowhere else for them to go."

The units at Latitude Five25 are out of commission at a time they are needed more than ever.
The city is hopeful a new buyer will come in and bring the buildings up to code.

“This would be a big undertaking for anybody,” said Celebrezze.

According to building and zoning services, they expect to learn who the new buyer is at the next court date set for early February.

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