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Vote Coming On Whether Income Tax Increase For Affordable Housing Should Appear On November Ballot

cincinnati city hall
Jason Whitman

Cincinnati Council will decide Wednesday whether voters will see an earnings tax increase on the November ballot. The proposal from Chris Seelbach would raise the city's earnings tax 0.1% and use the revenue for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Federal data shows nearly 75% of extremely low-income households in Cincinnati are paying too much for housing.

The income tax would increase from 1.8% to 1.9%. Seelbach says the increase would cost the average household about $3.50 more per month.

Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney supports the measure.

"People are suffering, they need affordable housing," she said. "A lot of people are getting displaced from their neighborhoods, because we're doing development, which is great, but we're not including affordable housing in those developments."

If voters pass the charter amendment, it would expire after nine years with the option for voters to renew. The increase would raise an estimated $170 million over that time.

Council Member Wendell Young says he'll vote yes on sending it to the ballot.

"This is not a decision that council needs to make, other than to decide whether voters get a chance to look at it," Young said. "And I trust the voters. So my thing simply is, let's put it on for the voters and let them decide."

Council's Education, Innovation and Growth Committee voted 2-1 Monday to pass the proposal to full council for consideration. Committee Chair Betsy Sundermann voted against it.

"Everybody's kind of struggling financially right now, so I don't think the timing is good," Sundermann said. "And I don't think we need more money in affordable housing right now."

Sundermann points to Hamilton County's commitment to use $40 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for housing projects across the county.

The proposal needs six votes on the nine-member council to get on the ballot. David Mann says he'll join Sundermann in opposition, calling the tax increase "bad policy."

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.