Downtown Mansfield, Ohio

Downtown Mansfield, Ohio. (Image by (WT-shared) OHWiki at wts wikivoyage / Public domain.)

The senior citizens of Mansfield, Ohio will have a new option for housing thanks to the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc. (AAA5) and Community Building Partners. And the area agency is working to make this a blueprint for affordable housing in the region.

AAA5 has seen that one of the major challenges senior citizens face today is finding appropriate, affordable housing. To that end, they’ve been active in trying to make sure the seniors they serve have better housing options available, advancing multiple housing initiatives in a highly refined strategic plan. They’ve been a co-developer on a senior housing proposal in Ashland, Ohio; they co-own an affordable senior apartment property in Crestline, with a successful track record and operations; and they’re now proposing developing new housing in Mansfield, with the help of Community Building Partners.

In Mansfield, the Richland County Land Bank wanted to spur development on some of the vacant parcels it had been assembling for years. Meanwhile, the City of Mansfield had funds that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development had granted to it to support housing goals, as part of the HOME program, that had not been spent. And Community Building Partners had already been working with Unibilt, a builder of modular housing, to perfect a modular, cottage-style apartment design for seniors that combined high quality with low construction costs. 

AAA5 connected the dots: what if they used the HOME funds to build 12 affordable apartments using modular design on a vacant lot provided by the Land Bank? The idea was a hit in Mansfield, and having received the green light from all parties, the project–now called Ritter’s Run–is underway.

Ritter’s Run is 12 units–half with one bedroom, and half with two–but it will serve multiple purposes. First, it will serve as proof of concept of the modular housing design that Community Building Partners is proposing for other places, such as Buckeye Fields in Marietta. It will also serve as a demonstration for AAA5’s concept for providing supportive services directly to the elderly in conjunction with their housing. By pairing the HOME funds with a mortgage, it will leverage additional private investment in Mansfield. Last but not least, it will provide housing for Mansfield’s growing senior population.

Modular construction means that the project can move much faster than a typical apartment construction schedule, meaning that the apartments will be ready for occupancy less than four months after the start of construction. But AAA5 isn’t stopping there–they’re looking to secure funding to roll out similar homes on small lots all across their nine-county service area.

Praxia Partners