Green Township public housing decision expected Thursday

Township could get 68 more units

CINCINNATI - Green Township residents should learn Thursday if the community has to accommodate 68 new public housing units owned by the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA).

The CMHA Board is expected to vote to approve a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to settle a discrimination case against CMHA.

HUD claimed that former CHMA Chairman Arnie Barnett tried to prevent the agency from adding more public housing units to the 27 that already exist in the township.

Barnett denies that allegation and maintains his goal was simply to try and spread public housing throughout the county.

"I wanted them to put public housing in areas that didn't have it or that had very little," he said.

Negotiations on the agreement have been underway for months with the most recent draft requiring 68 new units.

Green Township Trustees Vice-Chairman Dave Linnenberg said he hopes that number is reduced in the final document.

"I'm hoping we can work something out with HUD, but if it is 68 units in the next two years, we will have to fight that," he said. "That's just too much for any neighborhood to take."

Barnett terms HUD's approach heavy-handed.

"Germany had the Nazis. We got HUD," he said. "I've worked with those people and in my opinion they are as close to Nazis as you're going to get."

HUD officials declined to comment on those remarks.

"If this happens in Green Township -- Hyde Park, Anderson and Montgomery -- watch out. You're next," Barnett said.

On Wednesday Hamilton County's Commissioners delayed until June 27 a vote on a "Cooperation Agreement" that could allow 375 more public housing units in suburban communities.

Commission President Greg Hartmann recommended the delay until the 37 municipalities and 12 townships decide whether to opt-out of the agreement. The deadline for those decisions is June 24.

"This is the most local of all local decisions and it's the right of each community in Hamilton County to consider and debate what is best and right for their citizens," he said.

Communities that opt-out won't be able to get federal Community Development Block Grant funding.

Linnenberg said Green Township Trustees will vote to opt-out during the meeting on Monday, June 13, but didn't know if that would have any impact on what HUD decides to do.

Commissioner Todd Portune charged that the actions of HUD are not promoting fair housing in Hamilton County.

"What you have is a situation where those communities that may not be as wealthy as others who are in need of federal money and federal assistance end up being the communities that are being asked to shoulder the entire burden of the county," he said. "If it's good public policy, then it should be good for the entire county, not just for areas that need federal dollars."

Commissioner Chris Monzel called the situation one where the federal government is being very heavy-handed.

"I think we need to do any means possible in order to find out how we can counteract this," he said. "What other means can we use to show that we are using fair housing in Hamilton County and thus not have to take this from CMHA and HUD in this Cooperation Agreement."

Melva Gweyn of Westwood Concern listened to the commissioners' debate knowing that her neighborhood has numerous public housing units and buildings that accept housing choice vouchers.

"No suburb is safe from it," she said. "As a matter of fact, I think most of them are in more jeopardy because they think they have the sense that they're safe."

Gweyn said public housing has a negative impact on Westwood's quality-of-life, especially where she lives along Harrison Avenue.

"We have hookers going up and down the street day and night," she stated. "We have people that are panhandling, although they are getting all kinds of government subsidies and they supplement that by panhandling."

Larry Lucas is a retired school principal, who now sells real estate and owns four rental buildings on a small street in Anderson Township.

He told Commissioners that CHMA owns two properties near his buildings and they've been problematic. He didn't find out about CHMA's purchases until a year after the transactions were completed.

"I'm not wealthy, but that particular year I paid almost $40,000 in federal income tax to support the federal government, who is coming in and purchasing properties on the street where I invested to support my retirement," he said.

Lucas said he gets angered when vans drive around the neighborhood proclaiming, "Paying too much rent? Call us!"

"All of a sudden the federal government that I'm supporting is driving around with a promotion program that is undermining my in vestments in what I've done," Lucas said.



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