Housing project needs $1 million

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld claims new federal grant could fund construction

BY ERIN ALBRIGHT AND MO JUENGER, Staff Writer and World News Editor
Photo courtesy of @ 5chw4r7z via creativecommons.org
City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has worked to complete the Lower Price Hill affordable housing project for years, but the project is in jeopardy if city officials do not approve his plan to use federal grants to fund it. Mayor John Cranley has publicly rejected the idea of affordable rental housing.

An affordable housing project approved by the Cincinnati City Council for the Lower Price Hill neighborhood is short $1 million ahead of construction start. The project was expected to receive the additional money from city officials, but the funding was unexpectedly rescinded.

The project commissioners have received $11 million towards the project. $10 million has come from state funding, and $1 million from fundraising led by the housing project coordinators. The final $1 million is still needed for construction to begin.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced that he found the final $1 million in the city’s funds that the project leaders needed to begin. He located the $1 million in federal grant money coming to the city next year specifically for affordable housing, but it is unclear whether the city administration will approve the use of those funds.  

Eight of the nine city council members voted to approve the project, even though funding has not yet been approved by higher city officials. Councilwoman Betsy Sundermann was the only councilperson to vote no, citing that she lived in Lower Prince Hill and didn’t want “Section 8 housing” in her neighborhood, even though the project would not be involved with Section 8 in any way. 

87 percent of children in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood live below the federal proverty line, and proponents of the project say the new housing opportunity has the chance to give these children a significant increase in quality of life. 

“Letting this project fall by the wayside is simply not an option,” said Sittenfeld at an Oct. 8 press conference about the project’s funding status. 

The housing project, already approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission, would house approximately 50 families. Coordinated by Community Matters and Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, it aims to give workers at nearby manufacturing companies more affordable and higher quality housing opportunities. 

Community Matters is a non-profit organization that currently operates nine housing buildings in Cincinnati. The group says that this project would promote their model of family sustainability and resident leadership while creating a lasting impact in their community. 

A City Hall meeting was called on Oct. 1 to discuss the city’s refusal to grant the final money needed to the organizers. The meeting was said to be hours of sparring, accusations and debates about whether or not the hearing was even worth having. 

At the City Hall meeting, Councilman Chris Seelbach pleaded with listeners, saying that Mayor John Cranley is denying the money due to his personal preference of owner-driven affordable housing over rental units. Seelbach implied in a press statement that he believed Cranley to be playing favorites towards East Price Hill developer Bill Burwinkel in his recent withdrawal of funds. 

“All we have to do is put one more million in. This sounds fishy to me… the one person who is against this is a powerful person who is connected to another powerful person at City Hall,” said Seelbach in regards to Cranley’s denial to fund the project.

Though Sittenfeld has located the grant source that could be used to fund the project, its future is still murky. Funding must be approved by Cincinnati administration and allocated before Dec. 31, the date when organizers will lose the $11 million in state support. 

“This is a project worth fighting for and worth saving,” remarked Sittenfeld.