Region's low-income housing getting $63M boost

Posted at 12:08 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 13:09:44-05

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is ramping up its construction budget in 2016, with more than $60 million in new projects in the pipeline.

The region’s largest low-income housing provider is planning to spend about $42 million to renovate seven buildings in Avondale, Walnut Hills, Evanston and English Woods. And it’s investing at least $19 million to construct new housing in Mt Healthy and Colerain Township.

“Our community deserves the best,” said Gregory Johnson, CEO of the 82-year-old housing authority that owns and manages 5,309 affordable housing units in Hamilton County. “What we’re trying to do is continue to be an asset to Hamilton County overall, making sure that we have elderly housing and disabled housing going up and then stabilize the existing housing and improving it and making it better.”

Johnson said the construction budget represents a tripling of capital spending by CMHA, which typically invests between $9 million and $11 million each year on renovations and maintenance.

New construction projects include Cary Crossing, a $7 million disabled-housing community that’s now under construction on Compton Road in Mt Healthy. West Union Square, a 70-unit apartment building for people age 55 and older, could be under construction by June on Jonrose Avenue in Colerain Township. CMHA won tax credits to finance the $12 million to $14 million project last June.

CMHA is financing renovation projects with conventional loans authorized under the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, created in 2014 to help housing authorities address a nationwide $26 billion backlog of capital repairs that was causing public housing authorities to demolish aging units.

CMHA won a federal authorization last March to renovate up to 740 units under the RAD program by 2018. The first to be renovated is Baldwin Grove, a senior-housing property on Springfield Pike in Avondale.

That will be followed by a renovations at Sutterview, a 120-unit townhome community in English Woods, then two Avondale high-rise buildings: The Beechwood on Forest Avenue and Maple Tower at 601 Maple Ave. 

Starting late 2017, the agency plans to renovate the San Marco and Riverview properties in Walnut Hills, along with The Evanston, a 120-unit building at 1820 Rutland Ave.

Four of the seven buildings are more than 40 years old. Johnson said renovations will include energy-efficiency improvements that make the properties easier to operate. All of the projects except Baldwin Grove will require the temporary relocation of tenants within each property as renovations take place on each floor.

“We really want to keep it at three to six weeks at most for relocations,” Johnson said. “We’ll try to relocate people in floors … and everybody’s coming back. So, we’re not taking any units off line.”

Cincinnati has struggled with a shortage of affordable housing for years.

RELATED: Shortage of affordable housing leaves thousands of Tri-State families on brink of homelessness

A 2011 study by Affording Housing Advocates estimated there are 24,000 area residents who qualify for subsidized housing but can’t get it.

A September study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing studies found 30.5 percent of Cincinnati renters are “cost burdened,” which means they spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

CMHA has a waiting list of 2,200 people for the units it owns and demand for Section 8 vouchers is more than three times the supply of vouchers available.

Affordable Housing Advocates President Mary Burke Rivers applauds CMHA’s renovation plans but adds it “doesn’t lessen the need” for low-income units in Cincinnati.

“I like that CMHA is going to use this tool to preserve and improve its units,” she said. “There just aren’t the tools to increase the number of units, which is what we really need.”