By Anthony Johnson
Cincinnati City Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney filed a motion on Wednesday, February 3, to mandate the inclusion of affordable housing as part of future residential and mixed-use housing development projects that seek to leverage city government incentive awards.
The motion requires the City Administration to prepare a report and recommendations on creating an inclusionary affordable housing policy for all new major housing development projects (50+ units) seeking municipal benefits, such as tax abatements, TIF, federal block grant dollars and increased density allowances.
“Cincinnati is lacking 28,000 affordable housing units (according to LISC),” Kearney said. “As development deals come before City Council, we ask if affordable housing is included. Often, it is not. To date, we have not set a policy to require affordable housing.”
Kearney said that many development agreements and plans move forward without including affordable housing and by the time they reach City Council for approval, it is often too late to make significant modifications. This creates a missed opportunity for our communities and our City as a whole, as well as a burden on developers who already have spent a great deal of funds and time on negotiations.
Kearney’s motion calls for a clear, affordable housing requirement for major housing development projects to receive municipal benefits such as commercial tax abatements, TIFs and increased density allowances. In this way, developers can include affordable housing in their plans from the beginning.
“This ordinance will have a positive effect on developers as it sets forth clear requirements in advance of the planning process. It is imperative that developers can plan, estimate costs and accurately calculate their profit,” Kearney said.
Several years ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a statement that said in part: “[t]his integration of affordable units into market-rate projects creates opportunities for households with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to live in the same developments and have access to the same types of community services and amenities [and] because[,] it leverages private-sector development, inclusionary zoning requires fewer direct public subsidies than do many other state and federal programs that promote mixed-income communities” (U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, Evidence Matters, Spring 2013).
“The added advantage of mandating affordable housing as a part of new housing developments is more inclusion and less segregation in our neighborhoods. Cincinnati has been the fifth most segregated city for far too long. We can and must do better,” Kearney said.
The motion will be included on the upcoming City Council calendar to be referred to a committee for further consideration. While the motion is being discussed in committee, all impacted stakeholders and members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback by attending meetings virtually or contacting Councilmember Kearney’s office directly.
“It is essential to encourage public comment from many stakeholders including affordable housing advocates, community councils, developers, builders, the business community and others,” Kearney said.