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Cincinnatians want more money for affordable housing in next budget

About a hundred people attended a public budget hearing at the Madisonville Recreation Center on June 2, 2022.
Becca Costello
About a hundred people attended a public budget hearing at the Madisonville Recreation Center on June 2, 2022.

Affordable housing topped the list of priorities at Thursday night’s public hearing for the next Cincinnati budget. About 50 people spoke at the hearing in Madisonville.

Mona Jenkins is co-founder of Queen Mother’s Market Cooperative in Walnut Hills, which organized after the neighborhood lost its only grocery store.

“I can't send the kids home with potatoes when they don't have a house to live in, to cook in,” Jenkins said. “So we have to be intentional with where we are putting our funding. Food is a necessity. Housing is a necessity. And unfortunately, within our city and across this country, it is mostly affecting Black and brown and low income folks.”

The first draft of the budget from the city manager and mayor allocates $611,000 for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, from the short term occupancy tax. Based on the current revenue, city officials expect another $5 million to go into the fund out of what’s leftover from the current fiscal year.

Separately, the budget includes:

  • $1.2 million for the Strategic Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP) through the Department of Community and Economic Development; the funds are used to support the rehabilitation or new construction of housing units, including permanent supportive housing. (This is an increase compared to $750,000 last year and $389,000 that was originally planned for this year)
  • $3 million from ARPA for Bethany House's new shelter project; this is money that was previously allocated from an ARPA subset (HOME Investment Partnerships Program) but later deemed ineligible.
  • $2 million from ARPA for Affordable Homeownership and Minority Developer Capacity Building programs with The Port.
  • $2 million from ARPA for homeownership support through the American Dream Downpayment Initiative (ADDI) (note: council recently approved $300,000 for this program as well)

Council is expected to vote this month on how to spend about $9 million in federal funding for various housing-related projects, including another $2.8 million for SHIP, $2 million for housing repair services, $215,000 for emergency mortgage assistance, and $255,000 for tenant representation.
Advocates say it’s not enough.

"Put at least $40 million of this [American Rescue Plan] funds into the trust fund," said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. "If we continually have this problem, people are dying, you have tens of millions of dollars in your hands you can put to do something about it and you don't — what are we supposed to think?"

The budget draft includes $425,000 to community councils, enough for about $8,000 dollars for each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. Invest in Neighborhoods is asking council to increase that to $10,000 per neighborhood. Andrea Carter is president of the board of trustees.

“The community councils are your frontline workers, your eyes and ears to what is happening in every neighborhood,” Carter said. “And remember, our neighborhoods make up the fabric of the character of the city of Cincinnati.”

Carter also wants council to increase support for Invest in Neighborhoods from $50,000 to $75,000.

Most speakers at the hearing represented a specific organization or project asking for funding in the next budget, including ArtWorks, LADD, and the Center for Addiction Treatment.

Chellie McLellan says the Center for Addiction Treatment House lost $85,000 in funding from the United Way this year.

“We’re grateful that the city’s as-introduced budget has the Center for Addiction Treatment listed at $87,500,” McClellan said. She’s asking for an increase to make up for $85,000 in funding from the United Way that the organization didn’t get this year.

Cincinnati resident Althea Barnett pitched an entirely new idea: a citywide youth council.

“This council would be comfortable comprised of two youth from each of the 52 neighborhoods in the city of Cincinnati,” Barnett said. “Their purpose would be to form committees that would confront issues in the city and report back to city council their findings and recommendations.”

Her proposal would cost about $67,000.

Council will hear from the public two more times before approving a final budget by the end of the month.

Learn more about the current budget draft here: Draft budget includes police, fire recruits and a record-high human services fund

Upcoming budget hearings:

Saturday, June 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.*

  • City Hall, Council Chambers (801 Plum Street) and virtual

* A "meet and greet" with council members is scheduled from 10-11 a.m.

Tuesday, June 14 from 6-8 p.m.

  • College Hill Recreation Center (5545 Belmont Avenue)

See the city administration's budget presentation below:

Updated: June 3, 2022 at 4:24 PM EDT
This post has been updated to include more information about affordable housing allocations in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.
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.