14:34 PM

Affordable housing building in Linden

Community partnership led by Nationwide Children’s Hospital developing, rehabbing houses to create healthy homes

If it wasn’t for a flyer that showed up in the mail, Felicia Jones isn’t sure what kind of house she would be living in right now.   

Until recently, Jones’ home in the Linden neighborhood of Columbus had a rotting exterior wall, windows that were in danger of falling and cracking, and a tree growing through the side of the house.  

“Since I’m recently retired, the money that comes in once a month goes to all my necessities, so there really isn’t any extra to put toward repairs,” Jones said. “I didn’t know how I would be able to ever get the work done.”  

That’s when a flyer arrived in the mail informing Jones and her neighbors about Healthy Homes, the affordable housing arm of the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that is seeking to help South Side and Linden residents and homeowners one house at a time. 

“So much about your health is impacted by where you live,” says Gretchen West, executive director of Healthy Homes. “When you live in a well-constructed home in a neighborhood with access to transportation and employment opportunities, your health outcomes are demonstrably better. Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families is an effort to ensure those outcomes for children and families living in Columbus’ South Side and in Linden.”   

In Linden, Healthy Homes is one part of a multi-year hospital effort that is making investments to create positive health outcomes in that community. Over the next five years, the initiative will build 80 high-quality, affordable homes for purchase in Linden, with each being sold at less than the cost to develop it. The program is also developing 150 affordable rental units in the neighborhood. It’s a critical need, West said, because for many Columbus-area families, finding affordable housing is an acute challenge.  

Nearly 15 years after efforts began on the South Side of Columbus surrounding Nationwide Children’s, the hospital has built or rehabbed 105 single-family homes. To ensure affordability, each home was sold for less than the cost of redevelopment. The project also provided $3.1 million in grant funding to South Side homeowners for repairs. In that time, vacant housing declined by 50%.  

Expanding the initiative 
In 2020, the hospital expanded the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative to the roughly six-square mile Linden neighborhood, located northeast of downtown Columbus. The neighborhood has faced problems that include elevated infant mortality rates, increased levels of crime and minimal employment and transportation opportunities. 

For more than 25 years, Nationwide Children’s has provided primary and behavioral health care services to children in the Linden community. It decided to expand its Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families work based upon the vision of the comprehensive One Linden community plan, a revitalization blueprint developed by the City of Columbus and Linden neighborhood community leaders. That work includes bringing job, economic development and community engagement opportunities to the neighborhood. 

The hospital had the ability to expand Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families into Linden thanks in part to a financial contribution from the Nationwide Foundation, the charitable arm of the Nationwide companies.  

“The Nationwide Foundation is proud of our ongoing partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” said Nationwide CEO and Nationwide Foundation Chairman Kirt Walker. “Together, we’re helping to provide solutions for our community on critically important issues like affordable housing and research that makes an impact and improves the welfare of children and their families.”  

The Nationwide Foundation established the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund in 2014 to support the hospital’s research and development efforts. Every year, the Nationwide Foundation provides annual gifts of $10 million to the Innovation Fund to support research in genomics, heart health, neonatology, biomedical data science, behavioral health and other areas. Combined with an initial $50 million contribution in 2006, the foundation’s total giving to the hospital is $150 million. A substantial portion of this year’s gift is allocated for Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families efforts. 

Since 2020, Healthy Homes has brought nearly 50 rehabbed and newly built rental units online in Linden. It also plans to build 11 new single-family homes, three newly built duplexes and renovate a single-family home and a duplex. The program has also supplied 80 homeowners in the neighborhood, including Jones, with exterior home repair grants for projects that include exterior painting, roofing, siding and window repairs.  

For Jones, the Healthy Homes program has completely transformed her home and her life. 

“Words can’t describe what they did to make my home more livable for me,” said Jones. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford these repairs without this program. Everything that I needed to have done was accomplished, and it just fills my heart to be able to get my home repaired. My home looks like a totally different home now.”  

To learn more about Nationwide Children’s Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative, visit www.NationwideChildrens.org/HNHF.