How Cincinnati is Increasing Affordable Housing

If the Federal government continues to fund affordable housing, Cincinnati and its partners will build it.


CINCINNATI, OHIO -- Last year the National Low Income Housing Coalition revealed in the report Out of Reach an affordability gap between the cost of rental housing and the wages of renters. In real estate markets throughout the country -- renters do not earn enough to afford a decent, safe home without sacrifice. In that report, however, Cincinnati ranked third among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, with only Boston and Pittsburgh having a better proportion of affordable rentals.

NLIHC is consistent with the Federal standard that no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income should be spent on rent and utilities, where households paying more than that amount are considered cost burdened. More affordable Cincinnati, based on the 2014 census data NLIHC relied on, competed well in the study with 42 affordable rental properties in every 100 available.

In addition to built affordable housing, the city has been channeling Federal allocations to community partners that create new affordable housing by reclaiming abandoned properties or lots.

Stimulus for Affordable Housing

The city has provided funding for housing development through a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process, which includes U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development allocations like Community Development Block grants that could be eliminated in President Trump’s proposed budget.

Last August, Cincinnati announced more than $4 million for 10 residential development projects for rehabilitation of aging or otherwise underdeveloped neighborhoods through NOFA. That funding reportedly leveraged private investment by a whopping 12-to-1 ratio, meaning a total of $57 million will create 265 affordable housing units in Cincinnati that people can rent or buy.

The largest is a $15-$16 million project in the South Cumminsville neighborhood, one that is cordoned by highways and a creek. The Commons -- 80 1-bedroom apartments with services on site -- is supposed to break ground later this year.

The non-profit Working In Neighborhoods is working with the neighborhood to eradicate poverty in the next generation, Barbara Busch, WIN’s executive director, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

WIN has an Economic Learning Campus in the neighborhood, though works throughout the city. The organization has sold more than 160 homes to low- and moderate-income families. In addition to The Commons, WIN is also redeveloping three single family homes with the NOFA funding in the Cedar Corridor neighborhood, according to Soapbox Cincinnati.

Redeveloping ‘Kinda Tiny Houses’

The city has 52 neighborhoods, with four core focus areas that receive scoring preference through NOFA, including the Northshide neighborhood.

The group Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Development (NEST) is using its NOFA grants to renovate at least seven units, like this one on Chase Ave., in abandoned properties.

Through another initiative called Kinda Tiny Houses -- which are 600 - 1,000 square feet -- NEST is creating budget-friendly home ownership units. The renovations are funded through bank financing, along with allocations from the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). That program provides up to $14,999 of assistance to low-, moderate- and middle-income homebuyers at or below 120 percent of area median income to purchase single-family homes rehabbed with NSP funds. The funds help qualifying homeowners with downpayment or closing costs, or a principle write-down, in some cases. NSP is funded through the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which the Trump administration is looking to overhaul.

One home, 4137 Witler Street, was completed about one year ago and sold. NEST has several similar projects underway.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.

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