CINCINNATI — After six years of effort and plenty of hurdles along the way, a new $15.2 million affordable housing development officially broke ground Thursday in Lower Price Hill.
Called LPH Thrives, the development will consist of 47 new apartments in 11 different buildings. A new building near the corner of Eighth and Depot streets will house 16 larger, accessible apartments. The other 33 units will be spread across 10 vacant historic buildings that are being renovated as part of the project.
“It’s going to be a huge impact for the people that already live here that want to move forward, move ahead,” said Cynthia Ford, who was president of the neighborhood’s community council until health problems caused her to step away from that role. “It’s just really inspiring. Extremely inspiring.”
LPH Thrives also will reduce the number of vacant buildings in the heart of the neighborhood by 75%, according to Mary Delaney, executive director of Community Matters, the nonprofit organization leading the work.
“It’s almost hard to describe how joyful it is to be here today,” Delaney said after the groundbreaking ceremony. “In this work, you don’t always get to celebrate, and today, just, I just feel all of that joy.”
In her remarks during the ceremony, Cincinnati City Councilmember Jan-Michele Kearney said the celebration went beyond the groundbreaking itself.
“We’re celebrating so much more,” she said. “Community empowerment, community engagement, community persistence, all leading to the community success that we are seeing today.”
Giving everyone a chance to move forward
Delaney said the project started as “a bit of a pipe dream” but that residents have been determined to make it happen.
“Most of our neighbors in the last 15 years are folks who’ve moved in here, moved to the neighborhood after being priced out of their community, and so they came to Lower Price Hill and were looking for that next space and place to put down roots,” she said. “And there’s a lot of fear that what if… we get priced out of this neighborhood? What if we get moved again?”
LPH Thrives grew out of a determination to invest in the people who already live in the neighborhood, she said.
The project already is inspiring Lower Price Hill residents to build better lives, Ford said, for themselves and their children.
“Communities don’t just move forward because they get more rich people in the neighborhood. That’s not necessarily moving forward,” Ford said. “Moving forward means that everybody has a chance to move up and to be safe, comfortable and not way over their head as far as what they’ll have to pay for rent.”
Rents in the new apartments are designed to be affordable for households that earn between 30% and 60% of the area median income, Delaney said. Depending on family size, that translates to rents that are affordable for families that earn anywhere from $9 to $22 per hour, she said.
Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, a nonprofit developer, is overseeing renovations of the historic buildings and construction of the new apartment building and will manage the properties once they’re completed in early Fall 2022.
‘On the good list’
Financial support came from a variety of sources for the project, which saw its price tag increase in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed construction costs higher. Supporters include First Financial Bank, the Cincinnati Development Fund, City of Cincinnati, Ohio Housing Financing Agency and Hamilton County, among others.
Cincinnati City Councilman Steve Goodin, who has been studying ways to address the city’s need for more affordable housing, said he’s a fan of LPH Thrives.
“This one’s on the good list,” he said. “It doesn’t displace anybody, and it doesn’t eradicate any naturally occurring affordable housing. This is a very nice model.”
Delaney said she hopes the project could serve as a blueprint of sorts for other communities in the region.
“The affordable housing crisis is so intimidating when you’re looking at it from the county or the city level. You think, 'How are we going to come up with 40,000, 20,000 units?'” she said. “When you look at the community level, you can start to really break it down and see and make a tangible impact. And while 47 units isn’t going to solve the 40,000-unit shortage, it is going to make a big impact in this neighborhood.”
Ford said she hopes other communities can learn from the LPH Thrives project, too, and not only because it’s bringing quality, affordable housing to the neighborhood.
“It also happened because they listened to the people in the neighborhood,” she said. “They didn’t make decisions that did not include them.”
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on problems we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.