NEWS & ANALYSIS

06/27/2024
Advocacy, Housing, Sustainability, Transportation

HSC Testifies in Support of Zone-In Columbus

Screenshot

Tonight, the Human Service Chamber’s Director of Climate Strategy delivered the below testimony at the third and final Columbus City Council hearing on Zone-In, the City’s effort to update the zoning code.

Thank you all so much for the chance to speak this evening. My name is Rachael Beeman, and I serve as the Director of Climate Strategy for the Human Service Chamber. We’re essentially a chamber of commerce for over 200 health and human services nonprofits. Our members are as diverse in size as in the kind of work that they do. But we’re here to share that both we and our members are supportive of Zone-In because it will advance three key things of importance to our sector: 

It will further our sector’s housing goals; it will further our sectors’ sustainability and climate goals; and it will further our sector’s mobility goals. We need more housing that is affordable; we need to accelerate our sustainability efforts as global warming’s consequences become more evident in our day-to-day lives; and we need to be a more walkable and navigable community. All of this will make Columbus a more equitable place to live, and a healthier place to live as well. 

We have been sharing information with our members about Zone-In for the last several months, and of course, several of our members and partners have been key champions of this effort. In March, the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio–a membership organization whose membership overlaps considerably with ours–presented to our membership about Zone-In. Furthermore, we partnered with Councilmembers Green and Favor to drive attendance at the Zone-In Gallery, to ensure as many of our members were able to learn about Zone-In and contribute to public comments as possible. We remain appreciative and applaud the standard set by the City’s engagement efforts around this update, and specifically the concerted efforts to engage our members and our sector and community as a whole. 

Notably, one of the most prominent nonprofit leaders in the housing space, Leah Evans of Homeport, will be speaking about Zone-In with Councilmember Dorans at an upcoming Columbus Metropolitan Club luncheon. 

And though we already knew that our membership was behind this effort, we put out a one-question survey earlier this week that simply asked: Does your agency support Zone-In? And unanimously, the agencies who responded support it. 

We cannot be frozen into inaction because a proposal is not perfect. By many accounts this proposal meets and exceeds best practices across the country, with full consideration of the growing demands on our community. We know that this is a meaningful starting point in updating codes, policies, and ideas that are older than… well, certainly me, and likely a lot of folks in this room this evening. We understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of the suite of efforts being advanced by the City: the master tree plan, comprehensive transit and micromobility efforts, the efforts coming out of the Sustainable Columbus department, among others. The ZoneIn updates are a key piece in the puzzle of purposeful improvements that will benefit quality of life for residents of Columbus now and in the future. 

We know that the zoning code is not the most exciting public policy topic. But something that will make it easier for our nonprofits to respond to our needs in housing, sustainability, and mobility will have very exciting results over time for Columbus and Franklin County.