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City Council unanimously approves TIF dollars for new affordable housing

Posted at 3:45 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 16:34:33-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to direct a portion of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars to affordable housing.

The city has 35 TIF districts. As property values increase in those districts from new developments, a portion of the increased tax dollars the city collects goes into a special fund that is then reinvested in the neighborhood. Under this new ordinance, a chunk of that money will be used solely for affordable housing.

Josh Spring, executive director for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said the money for affordable housing is much needed.

“We are short more than 28,000 affordable homes,” Spring said. “Until we invest real money, significant, millions of dollars…homelessness will continue to increase.”

The city took steps to invest on Wednesday when City Council unanimously approved a measure that allocates 25% of TIF dollars to fund affordable housing. The city’s 35 TIF districts have about $26 million total, meaning $6.6 million will be set aside to build affordable housing. Plus, 25% of any additional money the TIFs generate in the future will also be invested.

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld described the investment as “a eureka breakthrough moment.”

“It does not address the totality of the need because we literally need tens of thousands of units of new affordable housing. But this is $6 million more going to affordable housing than was true yesterday, and it’s the biggest commitment the city has ever made,” he said.

Sittenfeld said City Council is defining “affordable” as 60% of area median income and below. He said the 80% standard is not affordable enough.

“This is truly affordable housing,” he said.

Developers can apply for funding if their projects include affordable units.

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition supports this move.

“Perfectly matches what we have been pushing for, for a long time,” Spring said.

“Yesterday accomplished one bullet in a long list of changes that we have to make, but we celebrate that one bullet and we continue to press for the rest.”

Spring credits the recent protests for bringing about change.