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Cincinnati's Affordable Housing Trust Fund Has Thousands. It Needs Millions

10.30.2019

CINCINNATI,  October 30, 2019 / WVXU /-- Forty-thousand families in Hamilton County can't find a place to rent or own that is affordable. That's according to the Housing Affordability in Hamilton County study.

Housing advocates have been demanding public officials fund more affordable housing and stop displacement.

"If you think about your own family and your own household, where you live is sort of your first priority. Once you do that you can deal with all the other stuff," says Liz Blume, head of Xavier's Community Building Institute.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says only 30% of income should be spent on housing - anything more is deemed unaffordable. In Hamilton County, some people spend 50-75% of their income to keep a roof over their heads, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, also known as LISC.

"There's a misconception in Cincinnati that this is an affordable housing market," Blume says. "We hear it all the time - 'We're not Boston; we're not San Francisco. How can we have an affordability problem? This is an affordable market.' It is an affordable market if you have money. It is not an affordable market if you don't."

Xavier, LISC, housing advocates, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and other organizations are studying how the county and city can get to the bottom of this.

How The Gap Began

Kathy Schwab is director of LISC. She says some suburbs have bounced back from the recession, but the city's old housing stock took a harder hit. "A lot of our home ownership has flipped to rentals and those rentals are a lot higher than they were 10 years ago," she says.

In 1938, funding from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal created Laurel Homes, the city's first public housing in the West End. According to Cincinnati Museum Center, only 30% of 1,039 units were available to African Americans despite the city's rising black population.

Former University of Cincinnati Historian Fritz Casey-Leininger says this is when the gap between supply and demand begin. "The problem was there was lots of resistance in the white population to building public housing especially for black (people)," he says.

Over time, stagnant wages and redlining limited African Americans from moving to neighborhoods with better living conditions.

In the 1990s, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority demolished the Laurel Homes and Lincoln Court to build a mixed-income development known as City West. Casey-Leininger says the new project created less units than the projects it replaced.

Casey-Leininger sees the city's history coming full circle in current debates about funding affordable housing. Continue Reading [+]...