Columbus, Ohio - A non-profit looks to improve some of Columbus' distressed neighborhoods and appears to be making progress with a unique idea that could be part of the solution to some of the city's challenges with housing and jobs.

  • Homes owned and managed by residents who will reinvest revenue generated into the community
  • Homeowner costs offset by a tax abatement
  • If approved, housing could go up by the end of the year

Architect and founder Jonathan Barnes, of the non-profit Betterhood, sketches out renderings for one of his latest projects. The organization focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods. With such a high demand for housing and jobs, he hopes to address part of that problem through entrepreneurial housing. It's a concept that's new to the City of Columbus.

He said the idea came about after noticing landlords neglecting properties in the economically-challenged neighborhoods in which they rent.

"We thought, well rather than police the landlords, why don't we make new landlords from the residents that are already there so they have a vested interest in their neighborhood," said Barnes.

Taking a look at proposed multi-story, row house renderings, resident owners would live on the first floor with tenants above.

Barnes said they want to help create thriving communities by encouraging landlords to invest the money generated from their homes back into the neighborhoods in which they live. Barnes believes this not only addresses the housing demand, but brings dollars to the community and jobs for people, as they learn how to be landlords.

"They get to own and they get to operate and manage these properties and they get the financial benefit short term and long term," Barnes said.

Taking a quick break, Barnes agreed to show Spectrum News 1 one of the areas that his organization's been considering. He's got his fingers crossed that other partners will consider it for the first building project.

We took a ​short car ride down Taylor Avenue, which leads to Columbus' east side. He said it is a prime area to create entrepreneurial housing opportunities, as the half million-dollar proposed homes could eventually be worth over one million dollars.

While Barnes has high hopes, he did get a little pushback at a recent standing room only Urban League of Young Professionals meeting. Potential buyers expressed concerns about cost, gentrification and building in a food desert.

Kimberly Brazwell attended the meeting and said, "What is ripple effect for this, for the community? What does this mean for the human beings? We're talking about bringing what 35 or more people who live here and at what cost?" You know like, what does that mean? What are they gonna eat? Where are they gonna get medicine?"

Barnes welcomed the challenging questions, but acknowledged that since it would not be subsidized housing, investing this way wouldn't be for everyone. Plus, the housing would only be one piece of the solution to much larger issues. 

In the meantime, Barnes waits to see if he's got the go-ahead from partners to obtain and build on the land they're eyeing. If he is able to move forward with the first entrepreneurial housing project, his team says they'd like to pre-sell and have the homes built by the end of the year. If that can happen, they'd like to make it a national model that can be replicated in other places.