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?
I am very familiar with affordable housing. I am very proud of my work with Price Hill Will, where we've done a number of housing projects. But to answer the question, it's just not feasible, with the perilous state of the city's budget, to allocate $50 million right now for anything additional, including affordable housing. I've advocated, and will continue to advocate, for a task force that will look at the city's budgets, revenue expenditures to get a firm handle on it and what we need to do to remediate the situation. That conversation should include housing, but at this juncture with the city's budget, in the state it’s in, it's not practical to be talking about a $50 million allocation for housing at this juncture. I think that the taskforce that I propose should look at, first of all, the problem; getting a firm grasp on the city's budget. Then, looking at ways to remediate it. If we decide we need additional income, two avenues that are available to the city are raising the property tax or ending the property tax holiday, and raising the earnings tax. I think this has to be a deliberate, thorough conversation.
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?
First of all, I want to echo a couple great sentiments that I really support. One, the city does need a comprehensive housing plan. Secondly, the tax abatement incentive program, especially the residential component, the entire thing, but especially the residential component needs to be re-examined and sharpened and focused. I also think that a “one size fits all” approach to housing is not appropriate or will not work in Cincinnati. What will work in Clifton, in Hyde Park is very different from what happens and what needs to happen in Avondale and Price Hill. Further, what needs to happen in Millville and North Fairmount. All are very different neighborhoods, with very different needs. I am very familiar with my neighborhood, Price Hill and my work at Price Hill Will. We have done a number of projects, including the Masonic Lodge and the Elberon apartment complex, which is affordable housing. Those all restored blighted and abandoned properties into productive use, increased property values and created jobs, which helps the city's budget. So tax incentives, if used correctly, can be a tremendous benefit, especially in a neighborhood like Price Hill or North Fairmount, or other neighborhoods that need development. I encourage you to keep in mind that tax incentives, if used correctly, are a very important tool for our city to improve our budget and to improve our citizens’ lives.
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?
I want to again just emphasize how impactful and devastating the redlining was on so many, maybe almost all, of our city neighborhoods. It trapped poverty in a lot of neighborhoods, and kept people out of a lot of neighborhoods. Again, I keep coming back to my experience in Price Hill, which I'm very proud of, but Price Hill Will has a long history of racism and trying to keep people of color out in the 60s and 1970s, and all the way up probably through the 1980s. I think that hurt the people that were prevented from living here, and, ultimately, it hurt neighborhoods like Price Hill. Because I truly believe that for a neighborhood to be healthy, it must be diverse. I've worked in Price Hill now for 25 years, specifically on housing issues. Housing is hard. These are hard issues. We've dealt with a lot in Price Hill; a housing crisis, we dealt with predatory lending, we dealt with the foreclosure crisis. It's all been painful, but with work and dedicated citizens we’re coming through it in Price Hill as a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood, and it's imperative that we keep our focus on that. When I started, Price Hill was losing a lot of middle class residents, and we were having trouble keeping our business district open. Now Price Hill is seeing some more reinvestment and some gentrification, and as neighbors, we must keep the emphasis on a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood. I believe that that is critical, paramount for the entire city. We need diverse, mixed-income neighborhoods, whether it's Over the Rhine, Hyde Park, Avondale or Price Hill.