City Officials Denounce Charter Amendment To Spend $50M On Affordable Housing
A charter amendment likely to be on the May ballot would require Cincinnati to spend at least $50 million a year on affordable housing. Advocates say it's long past time to act, while critics say the impact on the budget would be devastating.
Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Executive Director Josh Spring says it's encouraging that council is talking about the crisis more, but he says talk isn't enough.
"With these issues, we often end up where folks say, 'Let's create a task force; let's do a study; let's put together a report,' " Spring said. "If we don't take action, if we don't put real money into it, we're not going to get ourselves out of this crisis."
The city needs an estimated 28,000 additional affordable units. The current Affordable Housing Fund has about $1.5 million, not including an upcoming addition of $750,000 from developers of the controversial project at Liberty & Elm in Over-the-Rhine.
Mayor John Cranley and several council members strongly denounced the effort in a meeting Wednesday.
Council Member David Mann has filed a motion asking city administrators to investigate the amendment language and report back with:
- An opinion from the City Solicitor analyzing the proposal and identifying any issues as to its legality and enforceability if adopted.
- A report from the City Manager as to the impact of the proposal on the city's ability to continue current basic and essential services.
Council Member Greg Landsman called the amendment an "unfunded mandate" and said he thinks Cincinnatians will be shocked by the results of the report: "In terms of what this will do to our ability to provide core services. And again, hundreds if not thousands of public employees, their jobs will be on the line."
Member Betsy Sundermann, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, and Interim Member Steve Goodin also voiced strong opposition to the measure.
Mayor Cranley said he understands the good intentions of the amendment but the consequences would be "hellish" for the community.
The amendment does include a list of possible funding sources, which includes the general fund. Landsman says the only new funding option on the list — the earning tax — would require an additional charter change.
"City Council seems to always find the money for projects that they think are good or they think are flashy enough," Spring said. "Just look around."
The group of advocates need 4,680 valid signatures to get on the ballot; they submitted more than 9,500 signatures for validation. That's a notable accomplishment considering three potential candidates for the mayoral primary failed to reach the minimum 500 valid signatures.
Spring says they see widespread community support for the initiative because it impacts so many people.
"We see in our mind's eye real people that we know, that we have relationships with, not numbers on a page," Spring said. "The moms with their children who are sleeping in their car tonight, or slept in a park last night. The moms who have to bounce from couch to couch to couch, and maybe they started at their uncle's couch, but they end [up] with some stranger they don't know."
The Hamilton County Board of Elections still needs to certify the amendment for the ballot. The board meets next week.
Council's request for a formal report won't be up for passage for another two weeks, but the City Solicitor will address some of the concerns at the Affordable Housing Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday.
Read the full charter amendment below: