Jeffrey Woda: Woda Cooper Companies Open New Chapters in Affordable Housing

WHEELING – The market for affordable housing in the Ohio Valley has gotten red hot in recent years, and few developers have answered the call and worked with such great success to fulfill the area’s housing needs as the Woda Cooper Companies Inc.

Now headquartered in Columbus, the company does business throughout the eastern half of the United States, but it spearheads several major projects from and maintains its deep roots in the Ohio Valley, where company president and chief visionary officer Jeffrey Woda got his start – literally from the beginning.

“I grew up in the area, and I’m passionate about doing what we can do as a company to support the area’s people, growth and progress,” the Powhatan Point native and Bethany College graduate said. “Wheeling and the surrounding area has a great need for more affordable housing. Residents of all ages who earn a moderate to lower income have found it difficult to find suitable, decent housing with amenities and features they desire. We provide well-built, well-maintained units in secure, safe communities.”

Several successful local housing projects in the greater Wheeling area have been completed over the past couple of decades by the company, which today is led by Woda and his partner, David Cooper Jr. The Woda Cooper Companies specialize in creating efficient, attractive and affordable housing communities that serve a variety of tenants — from lower-income families to workforce residents to senior citizens. And the company strives to provide all of the accommodations that potential tenants look for in 2022 but are often hard to find elsewhere.

“Our residents want features that all housing seekers are looking for today — items like luxury vinyl flooring, contemporary woodwork and cabinets, energy-efficient doors and windows and ENERGY STAR appliances, in-unit washer and dryer hookups, ample on-site parking, plus good maintenance and onsite management,” Woda said. “We also provide common areas where residents can relax and interact with neighbors.”

In many cases, Woda Cooper Companies have transformed former brownfield sites, vacant properties and decaying neighborhoods into vibrant new living communities. In the Ohio Valley alone, multiple projects have been on the books in Wheeling, St. Clairsville, Bethesda, Powhatan Point, Barnesville, Sistersville and Weirton, with more underway and coming in the future. Once a new project is completed in the Friendly City, Woda said the units are immediately filled.

“In Wheeling, in particular, our new apartment communities are leased almost as soon as it is possible to show units,” Woda said. “We believe our $60-plus million dollar investment into Wheeling and the Ohio Valley has had an extremely positive impact on the affordable housing options in the market. We look forward to continuing this trend as we develop new communities in the area.”

Some of the local housing communities by the Woda Cooper Companies include Providence Greene I and II in North Wheeling, Capital Greene in Elm Grove and Hobbs Greene in South Wheeling — all senior living facilities. LaBelle Greene on and around the former LaBelle Nail Plant in South Wheeling has three phases completed with new housing complexes. A fourth and final phase of LaBelle Greene is underway, as is a new four-story senior living complex in South Wheeling known as Owens Greene, a sister to the Hobbs Greene community just two blocks to the north.

While construction is always proceeding, the challenges in the face of the pandemic and the supply chain crisis have had an effect on construction and development projects across the nation.

“Like other companies in the building industry, we have adapted to higher costs in construction and tight supply chains,” Woda said. “We also anticipate higher interest rates and more pressure on resources. We will continue to operate to face these challenges, while providing the same high quality product we’ve always produced.”

One exciting new project on Woda Cooper Companies’ agenda is the creation of a new apartment complex at the main entrance to Wheeling coming from the Fort Henry Bridge into the downtown area. The Doris on Main — to be named after Woda’s late mother — promises to be the first of many more eye-popping, transformative affordable living projects coming down the pike.

“Our long-term goal reflects our continuing desire to remain at the forefront of the affordable housing industry,” Woda said. “We will continue to develop, construct, and manage high quality affordable housing and provide each household we serve with a safe, modern, and well-maintained place to live.”

Woda said company officials listen very carefully to the local community’s goals and needs, and then adapt its products to fit that vision.

“We are vertically integrated, including in-house architecture, a development division, plus construction and management companies,” he said. “We are very nimble, so we can adapt while also taking advantage of scale and experience. Our scale provides us with purchasing power, the ability to share technical expertise and a keen understanding of the affordable housing resources available.

“We use high-quality materials and pay close attention to building quality, because we keep and own and operate our properties for decades.”

In the nearly 32 years of the company’s history, it has only sold one of the affordable communities it has developed. All of the others are still operated by Woda Cooper Companies.

“We work hard to maintain them and then rehabilitate properties in our own portfolio as it is needed,” Woda said. “We expect our properties to look and operate as well for future residents as they do for the first families to move in. We also hire local talent whenever possible which also helps to build relationships in the local community and appreciation for our residents.”

The company’s success has been the result of a collaborative effort that relies on support from the communities in which they build, as well as the local and state officials who help move these projects forward.

“I think many community leaders in the region embrace private/public partnerships to address areas of opportunity like housing,” Woda said. “That’s a plus for those communities. Efforts by the Regional Economic Development Partnership have also been successful in attracting new service-oriented businesses to the area that bring jobs and employment opportunities. Employees need housing so providing high quality, affordable options is an essential part of growth for a community.”