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An advisory board is finally meeting to determine Cincy's affordable housing strategy

Ambriehl Crutchfield
Advocates march to City Hall in 2019 demanding the affordable housing gap be filled.

The group of people putting together a comprehensive plan for housing in Cincinnati met for the first time Friday, nearly a year after Council established its mission.

The Housing Advisory Board will recommend criteria for how to spend the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The fund was established in 2018 and has never been used for its intended purpose: to incentivize the preservation and production of affordable housing through loans and grants.

The fund itself will be managed by the nonprofit Cincinnati Development Fund; one of the board's first tasks will be to determine the parameters of that partnership.

"Our primary function in this relationship is to add back-office capacity, strength of our team who is engaged and embedded in the community, and to be able to maintain regulatory compliance and reporting requirements that the city needs," said CDF President Joe Huber. "This board was specifically chosen by the city because of their expertise and what they brought to affordable housing over the years."

The board will also consider wider issues of affordability, including advising the city manager's office on a review of zoning policy and recommended reforms.

The board consists of 13 people, including former Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who is serving as chair. Other members include representatives from CMHA, The Port, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, LISC Greater Cincinnati, and developers (see a full list of members at the end of this article).

Council Member and Board Member Reggie Harris says one of their first tasks is to define the goals.

"If the housing advisory board is successful, and the trust is working well, what does the city look like?" Harris said.

Recent efforts to bulk up the fund include Mayor Aftab Pureval's plan to add $5 million from federal stimulus and establish an annual revenue source using year-end carryover funds.

An outline provided by city staff Friday shows a breakdown of the $57 million available for distribution in the near future:

  • Section 108 loan: $34 million (a revolving loan fund using federal HUD dollars)
  • Fund 439 and related capital: $3 million
  • Private investments: $12 million
  • American Rescue Plan: $5 million
  • CDF Leverage: $3 million

This $57 million does not include what was already in the fund (about $2 million). It also seemingly doesn't include the $6.4 million allocated from the American Rescue Plan last year, which is separate from the $5 million in ARP approved this month).

Several board members asked for clarification on how much money is in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (and related funds) and which parts of that money fall under the advisory board's jurisdiction.

The board will meet monthly. The Department of Community and Economic Development plans to publish meeting minutes on a forthcoming web page.

It could be several months before any money is distributed.


According to the ordinance establishing the advisory board, it shall include a "balanced representation from each of the following 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.

The advisory board was first established during former Mayor John Cranley's administration, and he appointed eight members that were approved by the former council in September. Mayor Aftab Pureval appointed five members to the board.

  • Arlene Nolan, executive director of Shelterhouse (Cranley appointee)
  • Greg Johnson, CEO of Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (Cranley appointee)
  • Sister Sally Duffy, Nun, Sisters of Charity (Cranley appointee)
  • Bobby Maly, CEO and principal, The Model Group (Cranley appointee)
  • Steve Leeper, president and CEO, 3CDC (Cranley appointee)
  • James Watkins, president, TriVersity Construction (Cranley appointee)
  • Roxanne Qualls, former Cincinnati council member and mayor (Cranley appointee)
  • Brendon Cull, executive vice president and chief strategy officer, USA Regional Chamber (Cranley appointee)
  • Susan Thomas, National Tax Credit Lending team, Fifth Third Bank (Cranley appointee)
  • Pastor Nelson Pierce, Jr., senior pastor of Beloved Community Church, and organizing manager at Democracy for America (Pureval appointee)
  • Kristen Baker, executive director of LISC Greater Cincinnati (Pureval appointee)
  • Kevin Hughes, regional managing principal, Cushman & Wakefield (Pureval appointee)
  • Cinnamon Pelly, chief operating officer, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio (Pureval appointee)
  • Reggie Harris, council member (Pureval appointee)
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.