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Council approves Downtown's first affordable housing project in decades

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The Barrister project will renovate two historic buildings Downtown, creating 44 low-income housing units and 2,000-square feet of commercial space at street level.

A plan to create the first new affordable housing units Downtown in decades got a funding boost Wednesday. Cincinnati City Council approved $945,000 for The Barrister project on East 9th between Main and Sycamore.

"Our region is in an affordable housing crisis," says Ben Eilerman, senior housing developer for Over-the-Rhine Community Housing. "Bringing 44 units online — while not addressing the thousands of units that are needed — it represents a substantial step forward in that."

Over-the-Rhine Community Housing is working with Urban Sites to renovate the two vacant historic buildings. The residential units will include six studios, six one-bedroom units, 24 two-bedroom units, and eight three-bedroom units. There will also be about 2,000-square feet of commercial space at street level.

All units will be for households making between 30% and 60% of area median income (considered low and very-low income by HUD).

Current Downtown residents expressed support for the development at a community meeting in October, according to Markiea Carter, director of Community and Economic Development for the city.

"The developers … have also engaged the Downtown Residents Council; they provided two letters of support for the use of the Downtown/OTR East TIF for this project," Carter says.

The Barrister is the first project approved under a change made last year that requires 25% of tax increment financing funds go to affordable housing.

The project has also been awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the state and developers are applying for state historic tax credits as well.

Construction is expected to start in the spring. Units should be available by summer 2023.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.