Volunteers, signatures needed for affordable housing trust fund

Like most major metropolitan areas, Cincinnati has an affordable housing trust fund in place. Unlike other cities, it is very low on funds.


Nearly 30,000 residents live below the poverty line, with most paying about 50% of their income on housing. Cincinnati is short of approximately 40,000 units, people are doubling up in cramped apartments, and homelessness is increasing, particularly between children ages 9-12.


Cincinnati Action for Housing Now (CAHN) and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are looking to change that. Currently, they are circulating a petition — with the help of volunteers — hoping to get enough signatures for an amendment to the charter of the City of Cincinnati to significantly increase the amount in the affordable housing trust fund.


They need 9,000 people to sign by January 2021 so that it can go on the May ballot.


According to Shannon Yung, who works in fundraising for ProKids and is volunteering with CAHN, many cities have around $50 million in their housing trusts, but Cincinnati only has a few thousand.


The petition is just to get it on the ballot, she says, but she’s not yet sure how it will be funded. Some ideas involve revenue from leasing the Cincinnati Southern Railway or a fee for developers of residential projects. She’s not sure about taxing residents, but acknowledges that, “For the voters that I know, that’s a really important thing to know.”


According to CAHN’s website, 95% of the funds will be invested back into the community to fund affordable housing projects, with a small amount available for direct services. New housing projects include restoring some of the currently existing but outdated housing and building new affordable housing.


There will be a Housing Trust Fund Board with 11 volunteers who will oversee spending and enforce accountability. In order to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, the board will consist of both professional housing advocates and those who have experienced housing insecurity.


“They’re getting the input of the community that will be impacted,” Yung says.


Ideally, if this passes, 500 affordable homes will be created each year, giving those who are competing for overpriced apartments safe places to live. Housing will be for those who make less than $30,000 per year, with a special focus on incomes under $15,000.


“Sure people have jobs but they’re not getting paid enough to live,” Yung says. “There’s always more to the story.”


And, according to the site, any project that receives money from the fund will stay affordable forever, with no loopholes for gentrification.


For more information, visit CAHN’s website, find out where to sign the petition, or volunteer.

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Read more articles by Jessica Esemplare.

Jessica Esemplare is the managing editor of Soapbox Cincinnati and a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Shortly after completing her degree in magazine journalism, she began covering local and regional topics at The Cincinnati Herald and, later, as an editor at Ohio Magazine. Her writing has also been featured in U.S. News and World Report.