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What to expect on housing policy in Cincinnati this year

FILE - In this, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, photo, a sold sign is posted in front of a home for sale in Mariemont, Ohio. From household wealth to spending at stores, many of the U.S. economy’s vital signs have recovered from the damage done by the Great Recession. While the housing market is improving, that engine of economic growth and job creation still has far to go before it can be deemed healthy.
Al Behrman
Cincinnati's first-ever committee focused on housing held its inaugural meeting Wednesday, and already has several policies under consideration.

Cincinnati's first-ever committee focused on housing held its inaugural meeting Wednesday. Council Member Reggie Harris is Chair of the Equitable Growth and Housing Committee.

"We want to begin to create the conditions for housing and equitable growth," Harris said, listing a few priorities: increasing housing stock, revitalizing existing stock, increasing home ownership rates, and addressing absentee and derelict landlords.

Here are some of the housing-related policies under consideration at City Hall:


Committee Member Liz Keating is newly elected to council but served for a year as an appointed member. She says her plan to change density regulations has been in the works nearly since she took office. It would remove the land area/unit limitations in zoning code to allow for more housing within multi-family, office, commercial, urban mix, manufacturing, and Riverfront zoning districts.

"The idea of this is to create more density on our major arterial routes that are along public transit lines so we can get people to and from jobs easily," Keating said.

Her ordinance was referred to the Department of City Planning and Engagement last May and has been going through a series of public meetings with community councils, neighborhood CDCs, etc.

"We have made some amendments to be responsive to some of the concerns," Keating said. "And we're really looking forward to moving this forward and starting to make a difference to be able to get more housing units online, to expand our tax base, and to really make a difference with affordability in the city."

Tenants Bill of Rights

Council Member Meeka Owens says she's working on the idea of a Tenants Bill of Rights to protect Cincinnati renters.

"As we're creating more housing that's affordable, it's very important that renters are understanding their rights that are afforded to them by law, and then being able to expand those rights where necessary," Owens said. "It will be something that's clear and concise that with the resources that are available to renters in our city [and] expanding tenant protection against exploitation, discrimination and displacement."

Automatic Abatements for LIHTC Projects

Reggie Harris has plans for an ordinance to automatically grant tax abatements to projects awarded Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). He is working with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Pennrose, LLC on the idea.

Amber Seely-Marks is a senior developer at Pennrose. She says to her knowledge, no other city in Ohio is granting automatic abatements to projects awarded LIHTC.

"The basic challenge is if you are serving a low income household, and you're restricting your rent, you're not collecting very much in rent revenue," Seely-Marks told the committee Wednesday. "Therefore, you can't borrow enough money to build the housing that the people need."

She says the LIHTC program is the primary source of funding for affordable developments, but it's not enough by itself. She says between three and five projects in Cincinnati are awarded LIHTC each year, typically with about 50 units each.

See below the full presentation from Seely-Marks and Pete Metz of the Regional Chamber (story continues after)

Housing Advisory Board

Council approved the creation of a Housing Advisory Board in April, which will oversee the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and millions of dollars in a HUD-funded revolving loan pool to finance development.

Then-mayor John Cranley appointed 10 members to the board, which were approved by council in September. A city spokesperson says the board is planning to meet for the first time in mid-February.

Members of the board are:

  • Council Member Greg Landsman
  • Greg Johnson (CEO, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority)
  • Sister Sally Duffy (Nun, Sisters of Charity)
  • Bobby Maly (CEO and principal, The Model Group)
  • Steve Leeper (president & CEO, 3CDC)
  • James Watkins (president, TriVersity Construction)
  • Roxanne Qualls (former Cincinnati council member and mayor)
  • Jeniece Jones (executive director, Housing Opportunities Made Equal)
  • Susan Thomas (National Tax Credit Lending team, Fifth Third Bank)

Mayor Pureval's Agenda

Mayor Aftab Pureval announced this week his initial plans for housing policy.

The city is hiring a new person for the Law Department's Quality of Life Division, which prosecutes landlords who refuse to improve the safety and quality of their properties.

Pureval also plans to introduce a motion next week to ask the administration for a comprehensive review of zoning practices like parking minimums and accessory dwelling units.

During the mayoral campaign, Pureval released a full plan for affordable housing. See the plan below:

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.