Victoria Parks 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 grew up in College Hill, and joined the United States Air Force after high school. I spent 30 years in corporate America, served on congressman Steve Driehaus’s staff, I was Development Director at Women's Crisis Center, supporting victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and human trafficking. Afterwards, I was privileged to breathe rare air at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. You may remember me from when I served as Chief of Staff to County Commissioner, Todd Portune, and upon his retirement, he asked the Democratic Party to appoint me to complete his term. I was there for only one month when I was thrusted into the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had to work very quickly, working to get homeless people off of the streets, and to disperse Cares Act money. Also, during this time, I was honored to author the resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Affordable housing is something that has always been an obstacle for people like me. I have always worked to remedy this thing. Now, when it comes to issue three, I think it was a great idea, but it wasn't enough money. $50 million is not enough. What I would work for is partnerships, private and public partnerships, in order to get this job done. I believe that people should be able to live where they work, and not be gentrified out of their communities. There has to be a solution, and there has to be political will for it.
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 definitely work for an ordinance that would create policy, saying that if you want to play ball with the city, this is what you have to do. While I was at the county, I saw several development projects that occured. I'll give you an example of a friend of mine who is a smart developer, who bought property- a four family home. Two families lived in it, they paid $550 a month. That did not make financial sense for her. But she didn't put people out. She didn't displace them. What she did was she took the other two apartments, and made them Airbnbs. But now she's going to be taxed like she's a hotel. I think that she should be incentivized, and other developers that will work from a human point of view, should be incentivized to do things like this. Also know that other smart developers would care more about the community. The other thing is we can also think outside the box, when it comes to CBAs. Over by Dillonville, I think it was a year before last, developers wanted to come there. And of course, when they get tax incentives, the school system loses. However, they thought outside of the box, and the developers paid for the schools to get over a million dollars worth of renovation there. They installed air conditioning, and also improved the schools. So there are ways for this to happen for the community to definitely benefit from it. Now, the other thing, the city does have an ordinance for affordable housing, they just don't use it. I think that should definitely be changed. We have the ability to have policy, and if you want to play with us, this is what you must do.
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?
At the county, I wrote the resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, and I know that the city did the same thing. What happened at the county is that we are funding a disparity study. What I will say about Cincinnati, is there have been many, many reports about the racism and the disparities. Now, what I happen to know is that when it comes to generational wealth, we have been locked out of the game for so long. It's like, in Cincinnati, they've been playing Monopoly for over 200 years. They finally let us in in 1968, but all the pieces are gone. We’re like, watching the game with our noses up against the candy store. So all of this comes down to economic development, actually. If there are jobs, if people can get to these jobs, if there's education. We have to cultivate our young children, we have to provide education. If we have union opportunities for training in the trades. So if we make that accessible, that would be of a big help. The other thing with all of these studies that have been conducted, we need to address the Urban League has done it, and we just have talk. We need to get busy. I agree with Michelle, we have to have political will, and we have to be creative about what we're going to do about this, because it is important, and we have to look at it with the lens toward our children. Personally, I am fighting the same fight that my mother fought, who was born in 1916. I really don't want my kids to have to go through the same thing.