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Affordable housing advocates 'excited for the momentum that we've created,' even after Issue 3 fails

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Posted at 6:37 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 08:29:44-04

CINCINNATI — Proponents of Issue 3, the defeated charter amendment that would have required local government to allocate $50 million to affordable housing in Cincinnati, still think they’re in a good spot.

“We're actually feeling very hopeful,” said Joele Newman, who helps lead the antipoverty group Cincinnati Action for Housing Now, on Wednesday night.

Although about two-thirds of Cincinnati voters rejected Issue 3 during Tuesday’s primary, Newman and other affordable housing advocates said they were happy to highlight Cincinnati’s housing shortage in a place where thousands more people would see and think about it.

“Our campaign pushed the envelope and pushed it to the forefront of the minds of citizens and residents,” Newman said.

And in a long-term battle for housing equity, raising awareness is its own victory. Newman met with other advocates Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issue’s failure and the future of their movement; the mood was optimistic, despite the previous night’s results.

"Knowing that I didn't stop yesterday and we knew that no matter what the results were we'd still be working towards that goal today, i feel like that's been just the hope that a lot of people in our own steering committee has been talking about for today," Newman said.

A related proposal could be back on Cincinnati ballots as early as November, this time courtesy of City Council member Chris Seelbach.

Seelbach, a Democrat, said he plans to introduce a charter amendment to raise Cincinnati’s earnings tax by 0.1% and funnel the additional revenue into affordable housing. A six-person affirmative vote in council would be enough to put it on the ballot.

"I haven't seen his charter amendment, but from what I've heard about it, it sounds very supportable,” council member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said. “It sounds very reasonable."

Kearney, another Democrat, said she was also happy to have the question of affordable housing take a more prominent position in discussions of Cincinnati’s future.

“Everyone has acknowledged that the lack of affordable housing is a huge problem in the city, and if we don't do something to solve it, shame on us,” she said.

Kearney added she believes public-private partnerships will be a key ingredient in a more equitable housing landscape, and she’s keen on the idea of boosting incentives for developers to include more affordable units in their new projects.

"There is a lot of pressure right now, which is good. It's good pressure," she said. "It's pressure that something has to be done."

Newman is looking ahead. Now that the question of affordable housing has entered the conversation at City Hall, it will likely stay there throughout the mayoral race between Democrats Aftab Pureval and David Mann.

"We're just excited for the momentum that we've created and continuing that momentum,” she said.