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More taxes for more affordable housing? Cincinnati voters could decide in November

The charter amendment would increase the city income tax back to its 2020 level to help fund affordable housing projects
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Posted at 7:03 PM, Sep 06, 2023

CINCINNATI — Queen City voters could soon decide whether to pay more so others can pay less.

A charter amendment proposing an income tax increase to help fund affordable housing is one council vote away from appearing on the November ballot.

City Solicitor Emily Smart Woerner submitted the emergency ordinance to the Public Safety and Governance Committee on Wednesday. All members motioned to recommend a final vote before full council Thursday.

It would raise earned income and withholding taxes for those who work or live in Cincinnati by 0.3%. The rate currently sits at 1.8%.

That increased revenue would be allocated to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, or Fund 439, which was created in 2018 to preserve and develop affordable housing and prevent homelessness.

The funds would be used solely to fund housing for those making up to 80% of area median income, though most of the funds would be restricted to those making up to 30% AMI, Smart Woerner said.

The initiative was brought before the committee after it surpassed the Hamilton County Board of Election's necessary threshold to be taken up by voters.

The board of elections on Friday validated 6,181 signatures collected by affordable housing advocacy group Cincinnati Action for Housing Now.The ballot measure only needed 5,385 signatures.

According to the citizen-backed campaign, the tax increase would restore the rate back to its 2020 level and cost most households less than $11 a month. That, in turn, will generate between $40 million and $50 million annually toward affordable housing.

If full council approves the initiative, and voters pass it in November, it would not immediately take effect. Council would have to pass another ordinance in November 2024 to enact the tax hike.