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?
My name is John Maher, and I would like to ask for your vote on November 2nd this year. For the past 20 years, I have worked hand in hand with the founders of my neighborhood Community Redevelopment Corporation. One of the main goals of the Redevelopment Corporation was affordable housing. Luckily, we were able to work with the city to get grant money in order to put people into homes and help them create generational wealth. It's been a pleasure of mine to serve those in my community, who don't necessarily have enough money to make the repairs on their house, but offer them affordable fixes, and help them keep up with codes. I believe that we're close to 40,000 units short in our city. I think that we must build and close this gap so that people can afford to live close to where they work and play. We've got to preserve the current affordable housing stock and prevent it from being upsold to luxury housing units. We must support homeownership and renters by ensuring that they have the legal and economic support needed to remain in their homes. I've been doing research on this for the past year, and I've identified at least six ways that we can help the affordable housing crisis. One definitely is funding, fully, the Affordable Housing Trust. I think, too, like we saw with issue three, we can try to put this back on a bond election. I think we must continue to offer incentives to developers to include a percentage of development to affordable housing, and we also need to find areas where we can relax zoning and development rules, in areas that can accommodate affordable housing and that also need it the most. I also think that we have to continue to reach out to philanthropic organizations and corporations that are willing to partner in the crisis.
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 support an ordinance that would require the majority of our funding and tax incentives to go to developers who are willing to do inclusive and affordable housing. I would also want to work with developers who would sign anti-displacement commitments, as well. I think it's really important that we expand the use of tax incentives for affordable housing development, and that we increase transparency in the tax incentive process. From my first day on the job, I would make sure that I'd launch a comprehensive review of our tax code as it relates to housing, and ensure that we are best incentivizing the affordable housing units that we need, and not provide developers with reasons to just do expensive buildings. I also think that this starts with reforming our tax abatement process. Currently, housing projects don't need to include single units of affordable housing in order to be eligible for an abatement. We need to change that. We also really need to look at our TIF money. TIF programs need to be really transparent so that people know where that money is going. Our public schools are really losing a lot of dollars for that, and education is suffering. We need to just continue to streamline the process, make affordable housing the top priority when we're setting use for public lands. Too often the city just forfeits the lands. We need to make sure that if we have land that we feel like we don't have a use for, that we are aligning ourselves with a developer. By the way, there are developers in Cincinnati that are on board with affordable housing. The community builder is one such company. Definitely a very important issue, and again, asking for your vote on November 2nd.
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?
Cincinnati is one of the most segregated cities in the country. I'd like to note that I haven't lived my life in that way. I see this as an equity opportunity, and I actually see this as one of our greatest opportunities to grow. We must find ways to share that economic prosperity more equitably. Cincinnati needs to grow to survive and thrive, but we need to do so equitably. Too many cities have tried to invest and build and develop their way to economic prosperity, but all too often they leave out the very lifeblood communities of the city. Expanding black ownership has to be a top priority. Whether we're talking about expanding black ownership in business, black ownership in property, in housing, or whether we're talking about expanding black ownership in the say of what happens to their community, to the community in which they live. We have to do things like assist tenants facing eviction and help homeowners remain in their homes. We have to make sure that tax appraisals are fair, and that tax relief for at-risk, long-term homeowners is available. There are just so many things that we can do, and like a couple candidates said tonight, it’s a matter of political will. That's why it's of the utmost importance to elect officials who you know will have your best interests at heart. It seems like the bar is set really low with the past administrations, but we have to do more to include all Cincinnatians in the piece of the pie here. We have a great opportunity to do this, and it would be a shame to let this pass us by. Again, my name is John Maher, I'd be honored to have your consideration on your vote November 2nd.