Broadband infrastructure has been a hot topic over the last two years, particularly as the pandemic underscored just how many people do not have access to high speed internet. The problem became more pronounced as children attended school online, when parents attempted to work from home, or when the newly unemployed had to sign up for unemployment benefits.
The subject of broadband infrastructure closely aligns with OHFA's work to provide quality, safe, and affordable housing options for Ohioans. The Agency does this primarily through awarding housing tax credits, a mechanism that drives investment into affordable housing construction across the country.
Each year the Agency awards credits to developers to build high quality affordable housing across the state. To be awarded tax credits, developers are scored according to criteria in the Qualified Allocation Plan, a federally-required document outlining how the Agency allocates the housing tax credit.
The 2022-2023 QAP requires developers seeking tax credits to install broadband infrastructure in their developments. Residents must have access to broadband services in their units. Developers will not have to pay for resident’s service, but must provide free access to high speed internet in common areas.
In previous QAPs, broadband was a recommended feature for both newly constructed buildings and rehabilitation. By making this a requirement, OHFA staff hope to create opportunities for Ohioans who would not have had access. Advocates have long said that rural communities often suffer the worst when it comes to access. Results from a 2019 study commissioned by the Buckeye Hills Regional Council estimated that more than 340,000 households in Ohio do not have internet access.
In addition, the requirement falls in line with Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted's efforts in the latest biennium budget and through other initiatives to increase opportunities for access for Ohio's rural citizens. The Ohio Broadband Strategy is working to provide service to communities across the state and tie economic development to broadband access.
The QAP is a two-year document. Each biennium OHFA holds stakeholder meetings and forums to gather feedback on the QAP and releases a draft for public comment. Following rigorous review and comment the final draft is released and presented to the OHFA Board. The OHFA Board approved the 2022-2023 QAP on September 15, 2021.