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Meeka Owens Forum Full Responses

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’m running for city council, I was born and raised in Cincinnati. I grew up in Avondale, and was raised by a hard-working family, union household. I also raised my son there as a single mom. He's now a firefighter in the Air Force. A part of my experience as a single mom is having been on CMHA's waiting list. I get it; the fierce urgency of now for finding solutions for affordable housing. I've been a small business owner, and I've been an organizer in this community because I believe that when you bring people into democracy, you build something great. People that have lived experiences like yourself, you also build something great, because the people that you serve should be reflected in those that we elect. When I think about this city and moving forward, housing becomes increasingly important to me, as a single mom. So yes, absolutely committed to finding affordable housing solutions in the city. What I am committed to doing is one, I've been committed to this since day one, in my campaign, but also, it's one of the top reasons for me running, again, because of my lived experience. I think we identify a strong revenue source for the Housing Trust Fund, that's important. I'm committed to working collaboratively with members of council, the new mayor, as well as experts in the field. I am also grateful that we have experts like Housing our Future with LISC, who's producing that plan that can help us have a strategy for moving our city forward, along with other community partners. I think as we increase money in the general fund, and are able to invest in housing, we make sure that we are also supporting organizations like Price Hill Will, who are on the ground, doing the work and moving people into home ownership and all of those pieces. Ideally, we can end preferential treatment or adapt a strategy moving the city forward and legislating based on our priorities. One other thing that I want to add in there is that we can't talk about affordable housing without talking about sustainability in that, as well. That means how we're building, who we're building with, who has that mission driven moment, that focus, and also how we're saving people money in terms of paying utilities.



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 absolutely include support and inclusion in the way we move forward with development in the city. We need to make sure that we're continuing to build out rubrics. Now, of course, again, echoing that comprehensive strategy moving us forward. So we need to continue to make sure we're developing rubrics that will help us know that developers are meeting these standards. So things like what the Peaslee Center has created and things that have already been adapted at City Hall, currently. I would also make sure that we are taking advantage of CBAs and our development deals, because when we're talking about creating safer and healthier communities, housing is certainly a right and is at the top of the list. So again, we want to make sure that we're doing that equitably across all 52 neighborhoods, and our policy and strategy will help us get there to eliminate displacement and to eliminate over-developing homogeneous neighborhoods that are based on race and income. So again, I can't help to continually elevate that conversation around the policy and the strategy that we need. We also need to make sure, again, as a part of that CBA, that the community is invested in what these developments look like in neighborhoods. Our developments have to be centric on neighbors and neighborhoods.


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?


When we have this conversation around housing, I'm reminded of how important it is to make sure that we are collaborating together. As we think about this, housing is not just a city issue. It's not just a county issue. It’s both of us coming together. When we think about increasing, leveraging financial tools that will help us to get there, community block grants and low income housing tax credits, and home funds, all of these things, I'm reminded that we've done this with transportation in our city. Transportation is a 21st century civil rights issue, and I think about advancing that in the community, and that means making sure that issue seven is working as intended, and so that transportation is accessible, it’s connecting people to jobs and homes and business, all of those things. Thinking about how we prioritize multimodal transportation in the built environment that we are looking at, because that's what housing is- how well are we building ecosystems of success? Bike lanes, major roads in neighborhoods, pedestrian safety, all of those pieces come together and become really, really important. We have to make sure that we're doing that in all 52 neighborhoods, not just in OTR, not just in Oakley, but in Avondale making those investments. Evanston, Bond Hill. Then finally, when we do make those investments, again, and improving the built environment, that's when we do increase the opportunity for homeownership. Ideally, that's what we're moving people into; in neighborhoods that are built well, and thinking of all modes of transportation, and also making sure people can afford to be there.

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