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A new set of proposals aims to increase Black homeownership in Greater Cincinnati

Houses across from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Avondale
Nick Swartsell
Houses across from Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Avondale.

Homeownership is often cited as a quintessential part of the American dream. But the opportunity hasn't been available equitably — especially in the Queen City.

A new plan announced Tuesday, called the Roadmap for Increasing Black Homeownership, aims to bridge the gap locally. It's being proposed by housing advocacy group Housing Opportunities Made Equal and endorsed by more than 30 nonprofit organizations and elected leaders.

Greater Cincinnati has the third-largest gap between Black and white homeownership rates of 58 large metropolitan areas in the United States, according to data from Zillow. And the gap is getting worse. While Black homeownership rose slightly across the country, it fell by 1.7% in Cincinnati between 2018 and 2019.

While almost three-quarters of white residents in the region own their homes, only about one-third of Black residents do. And in some neighborhoods, that gap is much larger.

"When you look at Avondale, the homeownership rate is about 17%," Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan Michele Kearney said at the roadmap's unveiling in Walnut Hills. "In Price Hill, it's about 11%. And the numbers are actually going down in terms of Black homeownership."

Kearney, along with Hamilton County Commissioners Denise Driehaus and Alicia Reece, are among those who have endorsed the plan. The roadmap focuses on six major points:

— Expanding fair, non-predatory home lending to more prospective Black and low-income homebuyers
— Establishing a fund for loans and grants to existing Black homeowners for repairs and emergencies
— Implement inclusive zoning to bring more density and diversity to single-family neighborhoods
— Providing relief from rising property taxes to existing homeowners in neighborhoods seeing property value increases
— Change municipal tax abatement practices to better support Black neighborhoods with lower home values
— Better tracking of data around homeownership

The reasons for the pervasive gaps in homeownership are numerous, HOME Executive Director Elisabeth Risch says.

"This goes back decades — centuries," she said. "Some of the racist housing policies that our federal government enacted, like redlining. And racially restrictive covenants, zoning codes and the predatory subprime lending crisis have all really contributed to the environment of segregation."

Contemporary issues are at play as well, Greater Cincinnati Realtist Association President Darrick Dansby says. That association represents Black realtors. Among those are racial disparities in home appraisals — once a Black family attains homeownership, they statistically run the risk of having their home undervalued during the appraisal process.

Another problem: not enough Black families are applying for and getting mortgages.

"Right now, the city of Cincinnati has 42% African Americans, but only 11% of new mortgages here are for African Americans," Dansby said. "That number has to go up. We can't achieve Black homeownership if we don't get Black families pre-approved."

Risch with HOME says some of the roadmap's proposals are already being considered by local elected leaders. Others need more attention — one of the goals of the plan released Tuesday.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.