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Issue 3: Cincinnati voters reject $50 million annual affordable housing proposal

Posted at 10:14 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 06:56:41-04

CINCINNATI — The city of Cincinnati will not have to find $50 million to fund a new affordable housing trust fund.

Voters on Tuesday rejected Issue 3, a charter amendment designed to force city leaders to provide additional housing for Cincinnati’s low-income residents, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

With all precincts reporting, 73% of voters had said no, while only 27% approved of the measure.

“We knew that the voters would come through for us,” said Matt Alter, president of the Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48. “We knew that they would see through this.”

The union leaders and politicians who fought against Issue 3 agree the city needs more affordable housing, he said, and now must work to find other, better ways to create that.

“I know the Cincinnati Labor Council and some of the other stakeholders, including some of the political parties, are interested in also sitting down and being a part of that,” Alter said. “The voters voted ‘no’ on this. But how do we make sure that this doesn’t just fall to the back burner, and we continue on this pace to ensure that we can bring affordable housing to Cincinnati in a responsible manner that doesn’t damage and doesn’t hurt current services?”

Cincinnati City Hall
Cincinnati City Hall

Issue 3 was designed to add a new article to Cincinnati’s City Charter. The language did not specify where the money would come from but suggested several potential funding sources, including the city’s $400 million general fund.

RELATED: Issue 3: Backers laud affordable housing proposal while critics worry of budget impact

City leaders warned that could require drastic cuts to basic services, including Cincinnati’s police and fire departments. Union leaders lined up to oppose Issue 3 except for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, which endorsed the measure.

Those warnings clearly resonated with voters, who defeated the measure Tuesday.

Even so, backers of Issue 3 have plenty to celebrate, said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Spring has been fighting for years to increase affordable housing in the city, and his organization was among the many nonprofits that supported Issue 3.

“At this point, even our opposers, all of the mayoral candidates have affordable housing on the tips of their tongues and are talking about it,” Spring said. “And everybody is saying, even though people want to argue about the numbers and the semantics, everybody is saying we care about this – we’re going to do something about this. So that’s good, and we will celebrate that.”

After that celebration, he said, the people and organizations who worked for Issue 3’s passage will plan their next steps.

RELATED: How can we solve Cincinnati’s affordable housing problem?

“We will just keep pushing until the trust fund is funded,” Spring said. “We don’t intend this to slow down or lose momentum, because there’s just too many people, too many kids are dealing with not having a home. Too many parents are struggling. Too many people die each year for us to slow down.”

Josh Spring
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Backers of Issue 3, Spring said, are part of a movement, not a campaign.

“If we weren’t in a pandemic,” he said, “this would be people marching, saying we have to, we have to fix our housing crisis. And if City Hall doesn’t catch up with us and hasn’t caught up with us, you know, we’re just going to keep moving forward, and we’re going to fix it.”

Even if Issue 3 had passed, Spring stressed, there would still be plenty of work ahead to address the region’s affordable housing shortage.

“We’ve got to incorporate more tools if we’re going to solve this problem,” he said. “No matter the result today, that march continues moving forward.”

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.