Council Exploring Solutions To Cincinnati's Affordable Housing Crisis

Feb 4, 2021

Cincinnati Council is exploring solutions for the 28,000-unit gap in affordable housing, and council members say the issue is a top priority. Advocates renewed calls to address the crisis this week as council approved a development in Over-the-Rhine without any affordable units.

Council passed a motion Wednesday they say is the first step in addressing the problem proactively. The motion asks for a comprehensive report on housing, including identifying city-owned properties that can be converted into affordable housing.

Interim Council Member Steve Goodin says they want to take a systemic approach rather than dealing with it "development per development."

"This is a $30-plus million problem, so we are thinking big and this is the first step," Goodin said.

The motion also establishes a new subcommittee focused on affordable housing, and asks for an accounting of all current funds in the Affordable Housing Trust and identification of potential sources of additional funds.

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney says council is united on this issue.

"Everybody on council, I can tell you, the public, that everybody is concerned about affordable housing and working toward it."

Kearney filed a separate motion Wednesday to consider making affordable housing a mandatory part of all future residential developments that get government incentives.

"By the time the development deals get to us, communities are saying, 'Well we tried to get them to put in affordable housing, they wouldn’t listen.' I mean we hear this story over and over," Kearney said. "And part of the 'not listening' is because we haven't said, you have to listen, this is something we expect."

Other potential solutions are expected to be filed soon.

Executive Director of LISC Greater Cincinnati Kristen Baker says she’s optimistic, but progress requires a larger conversation.

"This is a problem not just about creating more housing," Baker said. "It's really about, how are we as a community addressing the fact that our housing costs are far outpacing the incomes of folks that live inside the city limits?"

Baker says council seems to heading in the right direction. She says part of the problem is how people who need affordable housing are viewed.

"We are 'othering' these folks and saying, 'That's not me,' or 'That's not anybody I know,' " Baker said. "But it is the people that we know. It's people that are in our lives. And we need to make sure that we're providing options that make sense for everyone."

LISC published a report last year outlining the crisis and recommending solutions. Baker says she hopes council will consider that and other resources from local experts and advocates.