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 actually want to reframe this question because I think we're getting pigeonholed and really narrowed, and we're not talking about how we actually address affordable housing, we're focused on this number. So earlier you defined the 28,000 units, certain shortages, people making up to 30% in the area median income. Our primary developer for that is CMHA, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority. With greater collaboration with the county, the port, and the city in supporting CMHA, CMHA could do 500 units in a year, and that doesn't even leverage any funds from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We leave money on the table in the city every year. For the past 30 years, Cincinnati has been out-applied and out-awarded tax credits from Ohio financing agency. So we're not actively pursuing the money that we have on the table. To me just saying $50 million and 500 units is limiting ourselves based on the fact that we have mechanisms in place right now that can do this work, and again, highlighting CMHA. And we have been leaving money on the table in terms of using the mechanisms that identify affordable housing. So should we have to put money into the Affordable Housing Trust? Yes, absolutely. And again, I think folks have said “is it $50 million? Why 50 at this moment, when we don't actually have a strategy that drives that? To me, it's about creating more housing, all on the spectrum, creating pathways to home ownership to clear up existing units that are occupied, and then sort of leveraging all of that work to get to a point where we have naturally occurring affordable housing, so that we're not just thinking about one approach to affordable housing, but using all of the tools in our toolbox to create a spectrum of affordable housing.
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?
The short answer is yes. I would support an ordinance that does not allow developers to displace residents when they receive city incentives. The longer answer is that I would support an ordinance where that was one part of an overall housing strategy that preserves existing affordable units, expands those units, as well as, maps out a comprehensive plan to increase housing stock in this city. All of the answers that my colleagues on the phone on this call have presented are viable options for transformation without displacement. For revitalization without displacement. But it has to be informed. We have to have hard metrics. So when we say “adopting a housing strategy”, it should be something that is on the website that says, “these are the 10 mechanisms that we as a city are going to use to increase X number of housing units at this income level, X number of pathways to affordable home ownership in these three neighborhoods based on this data”. We can set those metrics and then begin upon the work of creating housing, because this idea of saying “affordable versus market rate” in a Cincinnati context, I don't think we have to do that. We can do all of it. We can create a spectrum of housing and do growth that is equitable and sustainable. It has to be informed by a strategy that's going to say, “do we need to increase applications, how we want to do public private partnership, how do we want to work with CMHA”? Because again, we have a developer and a resource in this city to address 0-30% AMI. Housing strategies that we are not effectively leveraging. So that would be a part of an overall ordinance that maps out specifically what we want to do and how we want to get there.
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?
The core of this question is about black wealth and about black homeownership. To me, what we're talking about is reparations. We're talking about an idea, and then a systematic undoing and triaging. So a lot of the answers and the things that we have been discussing are about dealing with the fallout of racism, dealing with the fallout of systemic racism. That gets us there, and then how do we systematically undo and support? So yes, we can build pathways to affordable homeownership for black people, but then there's that step of ensuring, once black folks are in the home, that they have access to capital for repairs. That there are mechanisms to help build generational wealth. The idea is we have to look at everything we do as a city, through the lens of “are we perpetuating systems? Are we just finding a way for disenfranchised people to become a part of systems that fundamentally are unjust?” Then because we got them in the system, we're like, “yay, we've done it!” Or are we dismantling systems that perpetuate systemic racism? Because the reality is that black people in this country have survived and existed, and we have made our way through profoundly unjust systems. So, yes, we can get folks into systems that still are profoundly unjust. The idea from a city perspective, is us always looking through the lens, “does this perpetuate disenfranchisement”? Not if this person has access to it, but if we give them access as it perpetuates. So that's housing, that's jobs, that’s sanitation, that's marijuana legalization, that is access to community engagement. It's a full lens of thinking about undoing systems of systemic oppression and racism. Housing is just but one part of that lens reframe.