City Manager Makes Recommendations To Halt Affordable Housing Crisis
Cincinnati's administration is recommending a new housing advisory board to facilitate funding and public input on affordable housing, but doesn't want to mandate affordable units in future development projects, as advocates have asked. Council members requested a comprehensive report last month, as part of several ongoing efforts to address the estimated 28,000-unit gap.
The new board is one of several recommendations presented to the affordable housing subcommittee Tuesday.
"The city administration will work with this board to establish comprehensive priorities for the development and maintenance of affordable housing and also for funding deployment in this area," said Billy Weber, chief of staff in the city manager's office.
The 11-member board would be appointed by the mayor and approved by council. The members would include for-profit and nonprofit housing developers, financiers, real estate brokers and city residents that could receive housing assistance.
The report also recommends a campaign to raise private funding for affordable housing. Weber says public funding alone can't possibly meet the housing needs in the city.
"I think one of the problems we have right now isn't so much a programmatic problem as a perception problem," said Interim Council Member Steve Goodin. "I think there are so many folks who are working with the homeless community and in the affordable housing space who have sort of lost faith in the business community's ability or willingness to get involved, that they think this should be a 100% public problem. It just cannot be."
Another recommendation is to formally partner with existing community redevelopment groups, and to create such groups in neighborhoods that don't already have them.
"Not only can they undertake development projects themselves, but they can also act as a bridge between residents and other third-party developers who would like to develop in a neighborhood, thereby creating successful projects that have community support behind them," Weber said.
The report opposes an option floated by housing advocates: inclusionary zoning, which mandates a certain amount of affordable units be included in most new housing developments.
The Peaslee Neighborhood Center says the city should adopt inclusionary zoning and a few other primary goals, like a dedicated revenue source for the housing trust fund and new regulations to protect against displacement.
Community organizer Joelle Newman says solutions must focus on the marginalized communities most affected.
"We believe that with the implementation of these critical first steps, Cincinnati can begin down the path of being a more equitable and integrated city for all of our neighbors to live," Newman said.
The city manager's plan explicitly rejects inclusionary zoning.
"Regulatory constrictions on supply lead to increased development costs and expose us to increased housing pricing as demand increases but without additional supply to meet that demand," Weber said.
The report doesn't just oppose new regulation, it calls for a deep dive into current requirements that might be blocking developments from moving forward.
The affordable housing subcommittee starting meeting this year. It's one of many efforts at City Hall to address the long-standing housing problem that's been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Read the full report below: