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 what I would love to first see is some third party studies that really indicate whether it is 50 million. Is that truly the amount that's needed to fix our affordable housing deficit? Could be more, could be less, but I really want to see that we are focusing on creating what that is year per year. It might be less some years, it might be more others. So hearing that $50 million would generate about 500 housing units, how do we go about seeing the details of that? Is that renovating existing units, is that making sure that we are utilizing what's already out there, or we build new, what's the process for that? So I think, kind of really making a plan in the direction of where those funds are specifically going. I do believe that the city should generate funds every year for affordable housing, but we need to make sure that we have a solid plan in place in order to make the greatest impact possible. So you're saying that we would need approximately 28,000 affordable housing units in the city. Unfortunately, I don't think there's a local revenue source to come up with that $50 million annually. So, for example, if we were to raise the earnings tax, we'd have to raise it 0.3% just to generate %50 million in one year. And we can't do that, I mean if we're not knowing now what's going to be coming of the earnings tax. So with that, that's a really hard sell to know that we can't raise something like that much. So I think, not only do we have to find a dedicated funding source, I think we also need to aggressively target funding from the federal level. We need to aggressively go after federal HUD money, which Cleveland, their entire affordable housing program is through federal HUD money. So I think if we can replicate some of those initiatives in other cities that we can really try to put a dent in what we're trying to do here in the city.
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 would for sure support an ordinance requiring prevailing wage be used on publicly subsidized projects. In 2020, the property tax working group released a recommendation to assist low income residents, seniors, and people with disabilities, along with suggestions for improving residential abatement programs. I would work to ensure that these recommendations were implemented. The current tiered abatement program primarily benefits green construction, which has undoubtedly made our city more environmentally friendly green space, but it does not incentivize affordable housing. I would vote to extend abatement benefits to projects that include affordable housing, and affordable housing components. If the developer is taking public money to benefit themselves, financially, then they should not be able to displace people. I mean, that's just pretty common sense. It's a really bad plan for the city, to pay developers to kick people out of their houses, essentially. Therefore, I believe that if a developer is seeking a tax abatement for projects which includes current tenants, then they must include affordable housing in the project. And they have to give those individuals adequate time to move out, Jan Michele Keanrey said, is in the works, which is great, because if we don't treat these people as human beings and allow them the time to get out of space and provide them the funds to do so and to make that move a streamlined process, then what are we doing but essentially bullying these people out of their homes, and we can't do that as a city, that's unacceptable. So we need to make sure we're treating, you know these are families, these are kids, and the study of adverse childhood experiences says when a child feels like they're being shoved out of their home, it's going to create some long lasting mental health issues. We don't want to see that happen in our city, so we need to do better. We need to do more to make sure that we're supporting these folks.
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?
Such a sad reality that this exists and that we're kind of still trying now to fix the problem. We need to do it, the time is now. What I'd like to see are some low interest rate loans to be made available to residents who earn a lower income, to allow them to purchase a home. This could be paid out of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, or other sources for this, but what this would do is it would allow our black residents to begin to build their wealth. We know that just 60 years ago, black people were not allowed to purchase homes in well off neighborhoods. I mean, I have seen the deeds that white people owned that said “the next purchaser of this house could not be a black person”. It is so sad that we created this problem ourselves. Now we need to fix it. Black people have not had the opportunity to grow their wealth in the same way that whites have, and so we need to do everything that we can to flip that script. HUD has a program called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. On the website, it states that the Fair Housing Act requires HUD and its recipients of federal financial assistance to do more than to simply not discriminate. That that's not good enough. They must make meaningful actions to overcome patterns of segregation, and foster inclusive communities. So along with granting better abatement for projects, which include affordable housing, I would also go to increase abatement projects which are built in low income census tracts, generating an equitable way to improve the most forgotten neighborhoods. We have neighborhoods that haven't had that development, we need to change that. Using our tax abatement in that way can really help with that. So I believe this would make meaningful action, change, to overcome the pattern of segregation that we’ve had. I also believe that, by adding affordable housing to the abatement program, that more access to wealthy neighborhoods would occur through that.