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?
First of all, I thought issue three was a great thing. I think 50 million is definitely a good place to start for funding affordable housing, and it laid out several good funding methods. I was pretty okay with taking money away from other city services, because housing is a fundamental issue. Not trying to undermine everything else that the city does. I think once we have that money set up, we can look into how we spend it. We can build city social housing units that are mixed income, able to sustain themselves by having a sliding scale rent, depending on people's financial situation, and maybe even fund new investment by that method, capitalizing things like on the cooperatives, community land trust, that can be kind of self sustaining affordable housing, as we go along. But absolutely, we just need to find this money, make sure it's growing an appropriate amount index to inflation, or whatever, as much as we need to make sure that people can actually afford to live in the city where they work. If that involves raising our own taxes, if that involves possibly paying the federal government and state for funds, so be it, but actually binding ourselves to an appropriate level of funding for housing is something that we should be doing.
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'm pretty tired of the city giving sweetheart deals to private developers. We need to look a lot more at how we can use that money to build the kind of city that we want to live in. To the extent that we are encouraging private developers through city funds, we absolutely should be requiring living wages, prevailing wages, affordable housing, and any kind of protection against displacement that we can put in. I definitely support those ordinances. Beyond that, the basic deal that I think we should make is much, much less city money going to private developers, but making it easier to build things, in general, through zoning reform that is broadly based, non-project-specific and other kinds of non-cash reforms like that. It’s simple; less money to line private interests, more protection for people who might be displaced.
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?
First of all, we need to remove the zoning barriers that prevent denser development in wealthier areas of the city that tend to exclude our poor, and generally black and brown residents from moving to them, and enjoying the sort of fruits of living in a nicely invested-in area. Secondly, we need to build wealth within our disinvested communities, which are again, disproportionately black and brown. I think the route to do that is through means of collective community wealth building, to establish community land trusts, and helping develop economic cooperatives that are owned by the community and can kind of develop things on their terms, and spread the wealth that is generating amongst people. We need to help foster access to unionized jobs, and to help develop worker cooperatives in the city so that people have a chance to build businesses and build community wealth, who don't necessarily have access to a lot of capital and not concentrating so much in the hands of individual, but spreading it amongst the community. Those are the main things to increase density, so that people can live in all sorts of areas of the city and build community collectively. We need to make sure to invest very specifically in the communities that have been sidelined by centuries of discriminatory practice.