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Affordable housing has become a hot-button issue in Greater Cincinnati over the last few years, garnering media attention, promises from elected officials and no small amount of debate. Here's everything you need to know about affordable housing in Cincinnati.

As Prices Increase, Hamilton County Looks To Develop Affordable Housing Strategy

Al Behrman

Hamilton County officials are working on concurrent plans to address affordable housing county-wide and in certain communities. The county is using federal HUD funding to develop housing strategies for six communities, working with LISC Greater Cincinnati and the Community Building Institute at Xavier University.

Kristin Baker, executive director of LISC, says the median sale price for a single-family home in some areas has roughly doubled in the last five years.

"In Norwood, as an example, housing prices have gone from a median of $97,500 in 2014 all the way up to $185,000 in 2020," Baker said. "We're seeing more out-of-town investors and buyers purchasing these single-family homes, so just because the sales prices are increasing does not mean they are continuing to be home ownership opportunities."

Baker says code compliance can be difficult with these real estate investment trusts, but the county can help smaller communities with enforcement.

Liz Blume, director of the Community Building Institute, says about a third of households in Hamilton County are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of income on housing.

"How can we have an affordability problem when Hamilton County is such an affordable market?" Blume said. "It is an affordable market if you have money — it's not an affordable market if you don't."

The first round of research focuses on Norwood, Silverton, Deer Park, Cheviot, Addyston and Springfield Township. Final reports are expected in September. Another $100,000 will fund housing strategy reports for six more communities after that.

Commissioners hope to have the first draft of a county-wide housing strategy this fall. Denise Driehaus says many smaller areas don't have a Community Development Corporation, or CDC, to take on expensive affordable housing projects.

"If a community is not able to develop that on their own — they just don't have the resources, or the time, in some cases — then the county kind of serves as that arm for them and we act like a CDC," Driehaus said.

It's just one idea for a complicated problem the county is trying to solve.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.