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Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, City Councilwoman. Photo provided

CINCINNATI, OH – Councilmember Jan-Michele Kearney has introduced two motions that will be discussed during the Budget and Finance Committee of City Council this afternoon to support increased homeownership and to stop owners from losing their properties when they lack the funds to make needed repairs.

The first of Kearney’s two motions requests for the City Administration to deliver a report to City Council, outlining all current city government activities and programs aimed at promoting and enabling homeownership for low-income individuals and families in Cincinnati, along with an update on the impact and effectiveness of these activities.

The second of Kearney’s two motions requests for the City Administration to stop adding fines associated with code enforcement violations to the property tax bills of residential property owners. It also requests for the City Administration to provide recommendations and best practices to City Council for the creation of a new program (or set of programs) similar to what was formerly known as the ‘Harbor Fund’, which provided low-income homeowners with grants to resolve code violations.

“Homeownership not only is a wealth builder for families, but is linked to improved physical and psychological health, increased community engagement, and even higher educational achievement for children. Cincinnati, with its 38% homeownership rate, lags behind the national average of 62%,” says Kearney. “There is also a huge racial gap in Cincinnati: Black residents own 29% of owner-occupied units in Cincinnati compared to white residents at 66%. My goal is to put feasible programs in place to increase homeownership, especially with underrepresented populations, in order to strengthen Cincinnati’s neighborhoods and families.”

“Property owners, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, are losing their homes,” says Kearney. “Under the current code enforcement process, as housing code violation citations and penalties accrue, they are added to the property owner’s tax bill. When the property owner is unable to pay the tax bill that then includes housing code violation citations and penalties, their property goes into foreclosure.”

Both motions request a response from the City Administration within two weeks. In the meantime, Councilmember Kearney is committed to working with the Department of Buildings and Inspections, Office of the City Solicitor, and others to create a viable plan that allows homeowners to maintain their homes, while also helping the City to effectively clean up blighted properties.

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