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Politics

Cincinnati Council will vote on a few housing proposals this week

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Cincinnati council is set to approve the first steps of Mayor Aftab Pureval's affordable housing plan. Council will vote Wednesday on two proposals: a one-time deposit into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and an expansion to the new Housing Advisory Board.

Pureval is proposing $5 million from last year's federal stimulus be put into the trust fund; it's part of his plan to bring the fund up to $57 million.

Budget and Finance Committee Chair Greg Landsman says there's "overwhelming commitment" on council to increasing that fund.

"We're well on our way to having a well-capitalized fund to support new units, new construction, [and] improving existing properties," Landsman said. "My hope is that this also includes efforts around rent supports in areas where rents are going up, outpacing income."

Council established the housing fund nearly four years ago, but it's never had a dedicated revenue source and has never been used as intended: to provide gap financing to incentivize affordable housing development.

The ordinance also includes $150,000 for the Cincinnati Development Fund to develop a housing strategy. The partnership with CDF is another carryover from the Cranley administration that seemed to stall until Pureval took office.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund is meant to be overseen by an independent board; Council established a Housing Advisory Board last spring and approved then-Mayor John Cranley's nine appointees last fall, but the group has yet to meet.

Council Member Reggie Harris says Pureval's proposal to add more people to the board will help with community engagement.

"Part of this expansion from 11 to 14 [board members] is really to increase the diversity of thought and experience on the board, as well," Harris said. "I've had the pleasure of working with the mayor's office in identifying folks who have various experiences working in housing to make sure that we're getting a robust representation."

The board is required to include "balanced representation" from several stakeholder groups:

  • Institutions that lend money for housing
  • Nonprofit builders and developers of housing
  • For-profit builders and developers of housing
  • For-profit builders and developers of rental housing
  • Real estate brokers licensed under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4735
  • Other persons with professional knowledge regarding local housing needs and fair housing issues within the city
  • Residents of areas of the city served by the board that could receive housing assistance from the city
  • Any metropolitan housing authority operating within the city
  • The elected officials of the city
  • Such other groups or individuals that the appointing authority determines are necessary to provide balanced advice on housing plans and programs

Pureval's appointees will get a council confirmation vote by mid-March and the board is expected to meet soon after. The group will propose priorities and general criteria for disbursing money from the trust fund, and will advise council on housing policy more generally.
Council's Budget and Finance Committee delayed a vote on another piece of Pureval's plan: an update to the city's stabilization policy. The proposal is to add another two priorities to the bottom of the "waterfall" for year-end surplus.

The existing policy requires a portion of carryover money be used for certain reserve funds, with whatever is left allocated to one-time uses by a council vote.

Cincinnati year-end surplus graphic
Courtesy: Mayor Pureval's Office
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Cincinnati's current "stabilization policy" allows for council to allocate 33% of year-end surplus to one-time uses. Pureval's proposed amendment dedicates much of that surplus to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Unfunded Pension Obligations instead.

Pureval's plan would reduce the amount for one-time use, directing that money to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (up to $5 million annually) and the city's Unfunded Pension Obligations (up to $2 million annually).

The portion of surplus going to the pension fund is in addition to what the city budgets each year (around $44 million).

The Budget and Finance Committee opted to delay a vote on this measure, with some council members saying they might want to increase the percentage of surplus going to the pension fund. The Committee will consider the measure again at its next meeting on Monday, March 7 at 1 p.m.