1.)What is your personal experience with homelessness and or housing insecurity? If you have not personally experienced homelessness or housing insecurity, but have been close to someone who was experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, what do you see as your role? Do you believe housing is a universal human right?
On a personal level, as a student in the early 1980's in England, on a very basic income, the availability of temporary housing during internships was scarce. I often ended up in what would be described as insanitary, slum housing. The availability of healthy and safe rental accommodations were, and are at crisis level all over the 'developed world' where many cities have left their housing stock unmanaged.
While I was the President of Pleasant Ridge Community Council, we created a housing Committee that worked closely with Council-member Smitherman as he converted his Law and Public Safety Committee to act as a de-facto Housing Court. Of the rental properties our Housing Committee identified, we had a 100% success rate in fixing the variety of issues faced by the renters who came to us for help. The role of the community (and city) council is to ensure that people are not living in unsanitary, unsafe housing no matter what their economic status. I believe a city must measure its success by its ability to cater to the needs of everyone. The access to affordable housing will be a major differentiator between us and our regional neighbors (Louisville, Lexington, Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus) as we all compete for the establishment of businesses to sustain and create jobs here.
Affordable housing is existential for our growth as a City. I don’t look upon housing as a fundamental human right, however, the effects of no access to, or poor & insanitary housing do significantly affect health which I do believe is a fundamental right in a developed country like the United States of America. My role as a City Councilmember will be to ensure that, along with many other issues, the City is investing its budget and creating tax incentives in a wise, efficient, sustainable way to guarantee outcomes while not pushing into the daily operations and deal making. This means the creation and policing of rules/guides (e.g. City Development Rubric - March 2021) that ensures the right outcomes.
2.)According to federal statistics, almost 26% of the population (1 in 4) identify as having a disability, yet the percentage of housing that is accessible has stayed stagnant at less than 3% for over two decades. What steps will you take to make sure that builders and remodelers of housing affordable to households with low-incomes expand accessibility?
City Council needs to use the tools in their toolkit to incentivize the inclusion of appropriate levels of ADA units, including the accommodation of older residents to allow them to live independently if they are able. Incentivizing behavior is just one way the City Council can use tax policy. This is the key to addressing the accessibility of ALL development in the City.
3.)It has been documented that Cincinnati is short of 28,000affordable homes. This 28,000 figure is specific to housing affordable to those of us at the bottom of the economic ladder, making around $18,000 a year or less, roughly Ohio's minimum. What new city legislation would you support or champion as a council member that would ensure more affordable housing is available to Cincinnati households at this level, where the need is greatest? What would this new legislation do?
I would legislate in close partnerships with the Housing Our Future Strategy Guide developed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)’s Steering Committee and working groups composed of local, private, public and nonprofit stakeholders in May of 2020. The City Development Rubric voted into being in March 2021 will be a great start for assessing the equitable impact of development projects on the community.
Future legislation needs to prioritize the preservation and production of affordable housing units, protect existing citizens, and enact systemic changes to provide sustained financial support for resources and programs that promote affordable housing accessibility. Though there are many actions that need to be taken, of great importance is the need to expand and attract private funding and state tax credits, an overhaul of zoning codes and parking requirements, and the expansion of tenant protections/rights and targeted support for lower-income homeowners. Legislation that I would champion includes, but is not limited to: tax relief for vulnerable home-owners, incentivizing developments with Community Benefit Agreements, renovation/home repair assistance for low-income homeowners and small landlords, a data-driven code enforcement network, housing assistance for affordable homes in appreciating neighborhoods, creation of a regional tenant association and a County Housing Court, expansion of public transport to widen affordable housing access to city jobs (where there is an identified need), continued support for existing organizations dedicated to the advocacy and enforcement of tenant protections, and adjustments to zoning (with Community input) to increase density and allow housing in some parking areas.
4.)About 50 Cincinnati families are now being evicted from their homes daily, and many more are effectively evicted when landlords raise rents and refuse to renew leases. Pay-to-Stay housing protections allow for families who are being evicted for non-payment of rent to pay all owed rent and to stay in their home. Will you push, in earnest, for housing protections? What additional city legislation will you pursue to curb, on a meaningful scale, Cincinnati’s massive crisis of eviction and displacement?
I would push for the County/City Housing Court and subsidize legal help for those who need it. On Council, I will be an advocate for tax relief for low to moderate income homeowners, senior citizens and rapidly appreciating neighborhoods, the expansion of tenant rights to include access to legal representation, the establishment of a Housing Court, the creation of a regional Tenant Association, standardized and balanced leases, enforcement/expansion of landlord acceptance of city housing vouchers, and justification requirements for eviction.