CINCINNATI – Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will have 341 additional units of affordable housing thanks to more than $3.5 million in grants the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati recently awarded.
The seven grants are among more than $27.6 million in funds the bank allocated under the federal Affordable Housing Program. That total amount will assist in the creation of 2,062 units of affordable housing in all in the bank's district of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The bank has been awarding money under the program for more than 25 years.
"The $621 million we have awarded since AHP's inception has made a tremendous impact," Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati CEO Andrew Howell said in a news release.
The largest grant awarded in the Tri-State is a $1 million to help build 80 multi-family rental units for low and very low-income housing, according to the bank. Sixty of the families who eventually live in the development will be coming out of homelessness. National Church Residences of Columbus, Ohio, is developing the $15.9 million project, called Commons at South Cumminsville.
Other grants awarded in the region include:
• $807.863 to help acquire and rehabilitate 100 multifamily rental units throughout Kentucky, including homes in Grant County. The project is designed to serve very low- and low-income elderly people and families with special needs.
• $797,442 to help build 58 multifamily rental units in Brown County, Ohio. The housing will accommodate low- and very low-income households, 56 of whom have special needs.
• $665,246 to help acquire and rehab 48 multifamily rental units in Newport, that will serve very low- and low-income elderly tenants. Brighton Properties Inc. will oversee the project, called Saratoga Place.
• $214,042 to help build 50 multifamily rental units in Cincinnati for very low- and low-income elderly tenants.
• $87,500 to help build two single-family homes and to acquire and rehab three single-family homes for low-income, first-time homebuyers. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati is overseeing the work.
Even with all those projects in the works, local advocates say the region needs much more quality, affordable housing.
Food or rent
"Almost all the poor families in the city are paying 50 percent or more of their income on housing," said Patricia Garry, executive director of the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati and president of the board of directors for Affordable Housing Advocates. "They have to choose between food or medicine or rent."
That’s not to say that the grant money from Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati isn't appreciated, Garry said.
"Every little bit helps," she said. "But there's no money allocated anywhere that comes close to meeting the need."
The federal government defines housing as "affordable" if families are spending no more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing needs, noted Ed Lee, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati.
But the average rent in the region is between $700 and $800 per month. And that cost consumes more than half the income of a minimum-wage worker -- even if that person is working full-time.
"We've got a closing coming up soon where the future homeowner saw what her mortgage payment was going to be, and she burst into tears because it's going to be below $400 a month," Lee said. "And that just changes the economics for her family."
Having the grant from National Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati was critical for the financing of the Commons at South Cumminsville development, said Amy Rosenthal, a senior project leader with National Church Residences.
"Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati has been a long-standing partner for us," she said.
Now that Greater Cincinnati has become a more attractive place for residential developers, affordable housing advocates would like for every new development to be required to include a mix of affordable and market-rate units, Garry said.
"I think we should be able to look at housing around the city and not have any idea what the income of the people who live there is," she said. "In a country this rich, everybody should have decent housing."
Each year Federal Home Loan Bank Cincinnati sets aside 10 percent of net earnings for the Affordable Housing Program, which helps create affordable housing for very low-, low- and moderate-income families. The bank's grants have helped create more than 78,500 units of affordable housing across Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee since 1990.
More information about the bank's Affordable Housing Program awards is available online.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.