Council Member Seelbach Proposes Raising Income Tax To Fund Affordable Housing
Cincinnati Council Member Chris Seelbach announced Monday he is proposing a charter amendment to raise the city's income tax from 1.8% to 1.9% in order to fund affordable housing. That 0.1% raise would be in effect for nine years, and Seelbach says it will generate $170 million in that time.
"The $170 million that the city is providing is just a catalyst for the private investment," Seelbach said. "So we're talking over $500 million in affordable housing in the next nine years."
That $500 million is an estimate. Seelbach says the direct investment in affordable housing will leverage an average $3 in private dollars to every $1 of public dollars over the duration of the levy. He says the increase will cost the average household about $3.50 more per month.
The levy would expire after nine years, but voters could opt to renew it.
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund currently has no dedicated source of revenue; that's one reason advocates put a charter amendment on the ballot in May to require the city put $50 million a year into the fund. That measure failed with less than 30% of the vote.
Council will consider Seelbach's proposal in August. It needs a five-vote majority to be placed on the November ballot. The city solicitor's office says the amendment meets the necessary legal requirements.
Regardless of the outcome of the charter amendment, the Affordable Housing Trust fund will be managed by an oversight board, according to an ordinance council passed in April.
Mayor John Cranley will eventually appoint 11 people to the Housing Advisory Board, including a resident eligible to receive housing assistance from the city, and representatives from nonprofit and for-profit housing developers. Council will vote to confirm or oppose Cranley's appointments.
Federal data shows nearly 75% of extremely low-income households in Cincinnati are paying too much for housing.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that the City Solicitor's Office said the administration supports this amendment. A representative of the City Manager's office says the Solicitor's Office did not intend to communicate support, but rather explain that the amendment meets the necessary legal and practical requirements for the charter amendment.