Question 1: Across the country, local and statewide affordable housing trust funds with consistent, dependable public revenue have long proven to be effective in preserving and producing affordable homes to combat the housing crisis. Cincinnati Action for Housing Now has called for at least $50 million in city funds to be allocated annually to Cincinnati’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Do you agree the City can and should generate at least $50 million city dollars annually, while maintaining existing vital services, and annually allocate it to the development and preservation of affordable housing?
So okay, get to the question, do I believe that we should earmark a fixed $50 million number? Well, you just heard $50 million might or might not be the number. I’m against putting any fixed dollar amount into the city budget. I feel like, as you just heard, our income is not that stable, and it's about to get more unstable. I think earmarking any large number is problematic. But it's obviously an issue. The Affordable Housing Trust is funded, as you heard, I think it's too restrictive, and when you look at some of the other cities in the state, they're less restrictive, and they're able to get more private money into the mix. I think that's going to help in the long run when we find next year that people don't want to pay their taxes. So Columbus, Cleveland and others have got some best practices we could look to. The local initiative support Corporation, which published their study in 2020, that;s broadly the plan that the city has been going through, and I think it's absolutely spot on. It covers the problem from a whole series of angles. And I think that that's absolutely important. I think, looking overseas, obviously, I'm from the United States, so I've been consoling people I know in London and other places and you know, a lot of places have been trying to do this. I think getting affordable units everywhere into big developments is absolutely the right thing to do. What's been tried and tested and does not work is allowing the developers to restrict access to these people in these cheaper places. You know, the idea of in Britain, they refer to it as a poor door, and it's an absolute disaster idea. We can't let that happen. So I think what we do, we do fund it. We do absolutely try and make sure we get the money going in there, but let's make sure we do it sensibly and with it across the board, all of the above approach.
Question 2: The City of Cincinnati freely awards public subsidies and benefits like land, zoning changes, and tax abatements to private development projects. Hundreds of cities across the country reserve these incentives only for projects that include affordable housing. Would you support an ordinance requiring the inclusion of affordable housing and prevailing wage jobs in order for developers to be awarded these incentives? Thousands of Cincinnatians have been displaced from their homes so that developers can move in people with higher incomes. Would you sponsor an ordinance that would make it such that developers could not both displace people for gain and receive city incentives?
I mentioned the plan that was put together by the local initiative support corporation. I think another part that’s worth mentioning, and Councilmember Landsman did, the development rubric is a really important part of this. It's a great start, it actually sets out criteria, which we need to follow in order to do any kind of development. I think it would, it does encourage, it does incentivize a lot of these things that we want to see, and I think it’s good. A lot of what's been missing over the past few years is actually baked into that. It's a great best practice, and as we just heard, national and international best practices are always where we should be looking for these ideas. I want to make a point about community benefits agreements. I think they're absolutely critical, and understanding that some of the neighborhoods that we're talking about don't have as effective Community Councils as others. I think as much as we can, we need to try and make sure that the community has a say in what's going on. I think that way, you can really tie the people who are in these apartments to the decisions that are going on about their apartments and everything else. I think acknowledging that there are secondary economic effects from any tax incentives we give. We saw that in OTR, where people were minding their own business and suddenly they were taxed out of their houses. That's a real problem. I think, bottom line, we should never be allowing our tax abatements to result in someone losing their house or their property or their rental. Housing court, which kind of comes logically after that, is something we really are missing in this city. We work with Smitherman in Pleasant Ridge, we work with Chris Smitherman to try and try that out in his law and public safety court. And we had 100% effectiveness of helping out people who are having problems in their apartments. It's a great way to really touch people. Then finally, the right to return is something that you can read a lot about. Having the right to return after someone's fixed up your property is a critical thing we should be working on.
Question 3: Cincinnati has been cited as one of the most segregated cities in our country. The continuing legacy of systemically racist and classist housing and development policies and practices have left entire communities out of opportunities for economic success, while other communities have been created as places of concentrated wealth. Black People are most harmed by these discriminatory policies. How will your plans for affordable housing benefit Black People specifically? How will you work to increase access to wealthy neighborhoods?
This question is just as complex as all the rest of them, and there isn't a short answer. I'm sure that when you add up what everyone is going to say right now, they probably all add up to probably the right answer. What I'll say is, the last couple of years have made it obvious that we have a lot of systems in our society that are not equitable to black and brown people. I mean, that's clear. I think while we're overhauling the Collaborative Agreement, I think it's time to maybe expand it, and include in it the access to daycare, access to good schooling, investments in the schools, access to a lot of the resources that single parents and people in those poor neighborhoods just don't get for many, many reasons and we could spend the rest of the day talking about it. So I think expanding Collaborative Agreement is one thing. I would include in that policing, how to police, how do we police? How do we use social workers with the police? The idea is to try and make these poorer communities more livable, and more able to start building a voice. I wrote an op ed last year about trying to build good community councils in all of the neighborhoods. A lot of the neighborhoods don't have representation. I think this is key for this. If you have a voice, if people start having a voice, they'll start getting more power in the city. The people who have the most voice are the people who already have the power. When you look around at community councils, you see that everywhere. As part of that voicing and power, I think I want to come back to housing court. I think that's absolutely critical. When we talk about housing court, making sure that everyone has a lawyer, you can't go into housing court and find out that your landlord's got the high price lawyer and you've got nobody. I know there's some people who will volunteer, but we should be allocating lawyers to people so that you have an equal chance of winning something against the landlord who's just abusing you. We, like I said, in Pleasant Ridge, we've done all of this stuff and it works. It really works. You can force landlords to behave and you can fix some of this stuff without even building new housing.