Local governments should pledge up to $10 million a year to create and maintain affordable housing in Greater Cincinnati.
That’s a key recommendation of a new assessment of the region’s housing options for lower-income people.
The just-released “Fair Housing Assessment” was done by Xavier University’s Community Building Institute for the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requires political jurisdictions to conduct an assessment every five years to determine the ability of people in lower income levels to find adequate housing.
The new report praised the urban revitalization of Cincinnati, saying “Midwestern cities across the country are looking to Cincinnati as a model for harnessing the trend towards urban living and maximizing its economic benefit.”
However, it pointed out that those gains have resulted in a loss of affordable housing in some neighborhoods, citing another recent study that found there were more than 40,000 Hamilton County households living in housing that was not affordable to them.
Not only is there not enough affordable housing, much of the existing stock is in bad shape, the report found. That should be a wake-up call to local governments to step up enforcement of housing standards, says Liz Blume, executive director of the Community Building Institute.
“One of the things that stuck out to me was the really poor condition that so many people are living in and how important code enforcement is,” she said.
The lack of affordable housing is linked to people living in poor conditions, Blume says. “People put up with terrible housing if there isn’t any other place to go.”
The report made these recommendations to improve access to housing for everyone:
- Make up to $10 million available annually until the housing need is reduced. “Federal funds for this purpose are declining significantly and private market property owners are able to command higher rents in strengthening real estate markets,” the report says. “The scale of this problem demands that significant resources be dedicated to this purpose.”
- Support catalytic economic and community development investments in north central Hamilton County. “These are mostly small political jurisdictions that have a difficult time generating the funds necessary for catalytic economic and community development projects,” the report found.
- Support regional and community-based organizations that create and support affordable housing. These include the Port, the Hamilton County Landbank, Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corporation (HURC), Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and Working in Neighborhoods.
- Support agencies that protect vulnerable households. These include Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Community Action Agency, Freestore Foodbank, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and many more.
- Expand public transportation.
- Create more lending products that work for protected class households.
- Improve housing crisis response. “The current network of help lines, support services, and intake systems designed to support these most vulnerable households are tremendously overburdened,” the report says.
- Engage in active, consistent professional code enforcement.
- Change zoning codes to open new areas to protected-class households.
According to Blume, making these changes will improve the overall community.
“If we want people to be successful and contributing, if we want families to be stable, that starts with safe, sanitary housing,” she says. “It’s hard for families to be successful if they’re panicked every other month with where they are going to stay.”