Scotty Johnson 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 definitely want to see funding for affordable housing in Cincinnati. It is where I think we're at a crisis level, and something needs to be done. The source of revenue is a question, is it 50? As Councilwoman Kearney pointed out, is it 50, is it from year to year more? I think once you start talking about a specific amount of money, we pigeonhole ourselves. So therefore, we're not able to possibly, depending on generated revenue in the city, to even do more? So we have to be open to possibly do more. I think the city, this present Council has done a good job with a great start if the funding is around 45 million right now. Prayerfully, that increases, but housing is a great concern. There has to be, there should be, funding available for those that are underserved when it comes to housing. We have to make sure that we are hitting the nail on top of the head as to what exactly will work. Cincinnati is still going to have to see exactly what happened with the COVID and the relief funds and where that goes. So the experts in housing, I'm sure they will be there to give us information on that. What specifically is necessary and what specifically is needed, is something I think we need to do a deeper dive into. We definitely need to make sure that we are providing funding for 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?
Any time we're talking about the displacement of citizens, removing citizens from their home, that's a great concern. When we talk about prevailing wages, it would be great if every developer would agree to prevailing wages. Therefore, we would have income and revenue generated where people could afford to live in the city. So to answer the question, I would never want to see any citizen displaced, and I would not support an ordinance that dealt with the displacement of any citizens. As Councilwoman Kearney has alluded to, that they're working on an ordinance that sounds like a fantastic start, where you’d have to have 90 days notice, and in addition to that 90 days, you have to provide some level of resources for those that may be displaced to be able to afford to have somewhere to go. But what goes on with the prevailing wage is that if companies don't agree to a prevailing wage, then where are we left with? It would be great to have that spirit of collaboration and cooperation in every avenue, but we know that's not going to take place. I never want to see a citizen displaced. I would never want to see anybody lose their home. As a city, we have to make sure that companies are being fair to those areas where development is taking place. We want to make sure that things are done decently and in an order, where we don't have citizens displaced, where we don't have citizens scrambling at the last moment to find somewhere to live. It's all based on economics, we know that. It would be nice in the spirit of cooperation if those things were to take place.
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?
So when we're talking about systematic racism, we understand that, first and foremost, with systematic racism, housing is just the tip of the iceberg. We understand that education, employment, the criminal justice system all feed into systematic racism. Those are just a couple of the issues that are facing what's going on with black homeownership. We have to make sure that we're intentional when it comes to making sure that everybody, all citizens in Cincinnati, are represented, black and brown citizens are represented, when it comes to housing. When I'm talking about intentionality, I'm talking about the fact that we have to make sure that we are laser focused on assisting when it comes to black home ownership, black and brown homeownership in this city. We can keep talking about those things that possibly would work, but I'm talking about those difficult things where those conversations get a little murky. When we talk about, specifically, helping black homeownership, we could possibly look into providing incentives and revenue for first time black homeowners. We can look into doing things where black home ownership in the city of Cincinnati is specifically targeted, when it comes to some of the housing funds that we are talking about generating between public and private entities. We’ve got to be specific if we're going to move the needle here in Cincinnati, when it comes to black homeownership. We’ve got to be laser focused. The fact that if we're going to be a city of inclusion, and not the two cities that have been talked about and reported on, we’ve got to make sure that we're doing things that move the needle to where black home ownership goes up. We’ve got to be intentional, we’ve got to be focused, and I think we can, depending on revenue generating sources, public and private dollars, we can incentivize by assisting with money. Black homeownership, specifically, first time black home ownership.