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City Council approves controversial $80M housing development in OTR, with no affordable units

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Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 18:24:01-05

CINCINNATI — An $80 million development in Over-the-Rhine will move forward with no commitment to providing affordable housing units, despite neighborhood advocates’ successful pleas to have discussion paused for renegotiation.

The pause ended, and a revised development agreement moved through City Council Wednesday with a vote of 5-4.

The final version of the Liberty and Elm project — a 300-unit apartment complex with commercial space and a parking garage — isn’t quite as tall as the original proposal. It also includes a requirement that the developer make a “good faith effort” to apply for affordable housing tax credits and mandates that it pay about $50,000 to support the troubled Cincinnati streetcar for each of the next 30 years.

RELATED: After pushback, Elm and Liberty development reconsidered

The version preferred by some housing advocates and ultimately discarded by Council would instead have required the developer to make 10% of the housing units affordable to renters making $45,000 a year. Less money would be allocated to the streetcar as a result.

The “no” votes on the final plan were all from Council Democrats: David Mann, Greg Landsman, Wendell Young and Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. The “yes” votes plan came from Republicans Steve Goodin, Liz Keating and Betsy Sundermann, Democrat Chris Seelbach and independent Christopher Smitherman.

In past discussions of the project, Smitherman said his support hinged heavily on the streetcar. The new project will place new residents and businesses along its route and provide badly needed funding, he said.

"This developer has bent over backward for the community, and this is an awesome project,” said Mayor John Cranley. “I’m not apologizing for supporting it."