If You Give a House A-ffordable Rent

By Ethan Nichols, Staff Writer

This November, Cincinnati voters will get the chance to vote on a ballot initiative to fund affordable housing in the city. 

The amendment, if passed, would raise the city’s earned income tax from 1.8% to 2.1%, restoring it to its pre-COVID rate. The amendment would generate between $40 and $50 million a year. 

A similar amendment was placed on the ballot in 2021 but was rejected by voters after being opposed by both the Democratic and Republican parties and being massively outspent. The campaign opposing the affordable housing charter amendment in 2021 was overwhelmingly funded by developers. Interesting. 

Cincinnati and Hamilton County face a massive housing shortage. Currently, we lack more than 32,000 housing units, which disproportionately impacts low-income communities. 

This is a crisis. Housing is a basic human right, and our city has failed to adequately address this crisis. 

Cincinnati has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. City Council is legally mandated to fund this trust fund, yet has failed to do so. 

We continue to see money go to developers who, simply put, do not care about affordable housing and continue to prioritize profits over people. 

Rising housing costs continue to make adequate and equitable housing out of reach for thousands of Cincinnatians. And with rising costs of repairs and maintenance, homeownership is also increasingly out of reach, especially for seniors and individuals living with a fixed income. 

Last year, rent in Cincinnati increased more than any other city in the country. Currently, one out of every three households in Cincinnati is paying more than they can afford for rent. 

“This is so important to me, because as an affordable housing developer, I can tell you good-intentioned efforts aren’t enough. This council has recognized the affordable housing crisis in this city… Cincinnati has the opportunity to lead the way,” Over-the-Rhine Community Housing Executive Director Mary Burke Rivers said. 

The onus to guarantee all Cincinnatians have access to equitable and affordable housing should be on us, the citizens. In an ideal world, our city and county government would have addressed this issue and instituted proactive measures to guarantee housing for all. Unfortunately, that has not happened. It is now on us to take action.

“Passing the charter amendment will send a clear message: Cincinnati’s working class deserves a say in how public money gets spent! Our city council shouldn’t only listen to corporate developers and landlords motivated by their bottom lines. We all have the right to be housed, and to be heard,” the Democratic Socialists of America of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky said in a statement. 

According to data from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, more than 400,000 low-income residents are currently being burdened by increasingly high rent rates. 

“68% of them are not living in affordable housing, and not only are they not living in affordable housing, they are paying more than 50% of their income on rent and utilities,” Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio Amy Riegel said. 

Everyone agrees — there is an affordable housing crisis. Thousands of Cincinnatians are suffering. When we combine low wages with exceedingly high rent rates, the crisis deepens. 

Luckily, Cincinnatians have a chance to make significant efforts towards assuaging this crisis. Passing the ballot amendment will not solve the housing crisis, but it will make significant steps in ensuring that we spend and invest our money properly. Instead of allowing developers to continue to get away with building expensive properties out of reach for any normal person, we can ensure that housing is built that is accessible for all. 

This November, vote yes on the affordable housing charter amendment. Housing is a human right. Let’s demand better.