One of three charter amendments on the ballot on May 4 is Issue 3. This charter amendment would put $50 million into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund designed to ensure affordable housing to low-income residents. The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition has not taken a position on Issue 3, but two aspects to Our Calling are “resistance to threats to individual, family, and community well-being and respect for community as both place and the people who live there.” Lack of affordable housing is a key threat to Appalachian people and our communities. It is crucial that voters have the facts surrounding this issue rather than exaggeration or unfounded assumptions.
According to the details provided by the League of Women Voters, the Charter Amendment “establishes a Fund restricted to affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization. It defines housing as affordable when costs associated with residing in the home require no more than thirty percent of the household’s income.”
More than 100,000 residents of the City of Cincinnati pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing as the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment has climbed to $1,357 per month. Advocates of Issue 3 believe that the City has subsidized luxury housing projects such as the current project proposed at Liberty and Elm while ignoring the persistent loss of low-income housing. The city has lost more than 300 affordable housing units as luxury housing has proliferated throughout the city, particularly in Over-the-Rhine. The position of those who petitioned to have the amendment put on the ballot and those who support Issue 3 is that the City “has not committed any significant funding for affordable housing beyond what is allocated by the Federal government.”
Opponents of Issue 3 state that the proposed $50 million charter amendment will necessarily lead to cuts to other parts of the city budget that will include the police and fire departments. Further, they believe these cuts will inevitably cause police and emergency services to be compromised, presenting a danger to public safety. It is important to note that there is nothing in the language of Issue 3 that calls for cuts to any City services at all. The specific language from the charter amendment on how the amendment will be funded is: “City Council shall appropriate no less than $50 million into the fund every fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021, to be paid from (1) the City’s general operating or capital funds; (2) revenue from the lease or sale of the Cincinnati Southern Railway; (3) a proposed fee on developers of all commercial and some residential projects; or (4) a personal income tax on the award of stock options in publicly traded companies.”
There is nothing in this amendment about specific budget cuts or defunding the police. The City of Cincinnati has allocated large sums of money for development projects whenever they deem it necessary without cutting budgets for police and emergency services. The new FC Cincinnati Stadium is a case in point. The city contributed $33.9 million to do site preparation, utility work and parking for FC Cincinnati’s 21,000-seat stadium. Over $17 million of this is in the form of loans, but unlike other property loans, the City will not own the stadium once these loans are paid off. In the final analysis, the City of Cincinnati was able to allocate more than $33 million dollars for the construction of a sports venue that displaced hundreds of low-income families without taking a penny from the budget allocations for the police and fire departments.
While opponents of Issue 3 have sought to link issue 3 with hot-button issues, the proposed amendment itself is focused solely on affordable housing for low-income people and families and is not in any way linked to any other issues. Specific language from the Issue 3 Charter Amendment states: “Funds can be allocated to new construction, renovation of vacant property, renovation of existing affordable units for the purpose of ensuring their sustainability, operation costs of affordable housing and direct services.”
In a recent Cincinnati Enquirer Op-Ed, Carren Herring and Kathleen Wade stated that columnist Jason Williams suggested that the organizations behind Issue 3 “don’t care about safe neighborhoods,” and that their sole agenda is to “defund the police.” However, a partial list of local organizations that make up the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, one of the main supporters of Issue 3, include Bellarmine Parish at Xavier University; Our Daily Bread; Urban Appalachian Community Coalition; Center for Addiction Treatment; Volunteers of America; St. Vincent de Paul; Tender Mercies; Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati; Christ Church Cathedral; Lighthouse; OTR Community Housing; Catholic Worker House; Southwest Ohio Nurses Association; Red Bike; UpSpring for Children Without Homes; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); and Center for Respite Care. These are neighborhood advocacy and humanitarian organizations which clearly care about all aspects of community life. Although not all of these organizations (including UACC) have taken a position with regard to Issue 3, to pretend that advocacy for the homeless is the same as the movement to defund the police is inaccurate.
Another objection to Issue 3 is that there may not be sufficient safeguards against the potential for corruption. The amendment would create a new Cincinnati Housing Trust Fund Board made up of 11 unpaid members who would determine how the appropriated money is spent. Cincinnati’s Charter Committee, among others, believes that the language of the amendment does not provide sufficient safeguards against board members or their associates benefitting from the board’s decisions.
The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition wishes to provide people access to the facts behind Issue 3 without being distracted by some of the alarmist claims that have attended the issue. While voters have reason to question how the city will pay for Issue 3, and how the allocation of funds will be decided, voters should know that the charter amendment does not include budget cuts to emergency services and the police. Here is a link to a League of Women Voters document that provides specific details of the Issue 3 charter amendment. Here is a link to the language in the Charter Amendment itself. Citizens can read it for themselves and make an informed decision based on the facts.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.