Controversial zoning ordinance proposal subject to City Hall public hearing

Public hearing scheduled for March 15
Cincinnati City Hall
Posted at 10:53 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 22:53:31-04

CINCINNATI — A public hearing will take place Tuesday at City Hall to address a controversial zoning ordinance proposal aimed at lifting density restrictions.

Council members behind the proposal say it’s supposed to create more affordable housing. However, critics say the proposal would create the opposite outcome and could cause higher costs and displacement, instead.

The proposal suggests that smaller units be allowed inside of existing buildings in areas of neighborhoods already zoned for multi-family units. Supporters of the proposal say the idea will allow for more housing units to be created. They argue that would then drive down housing costs and make it easier to redevelop blighted buildings.

“It’s going to create more walkable, livable neighborhoods,” said council member Liz Keating, who introduced the proposal in May 2021 during the last administration. “It’s going to take more cars off the street because people can walk to and from school, to and from work.”

Councilmember Reggie Harris said he supports the proposal, saying it is the first step in a comprehensive effort from the city to create more affordable housing.

“We’re dealing with a housing supply shortage in the nation and in the city,” said City Council Member Reggie Harris, another supporter of the proposal. “And one of the key tools to combat that shortage is simply to build more housing.”

Harris also said residents can expect city officials to work on allotting funds towards affordable housing, dismantling racist housing policy and reviewing tax abatement policies for commercial and residential properties.

However, critics say the proposal would exacerbate segregation issues it’s trying to eliminate.

“You can’t desegregate a segregated city only looking at a small percentage of where people are living,” said Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney.

Lemon Kearney pointed out that the multi-family-zoned areas the proposal is geared at only affects about a quarter of the city. She said single-family zones that are left out of the proposal make up 77% of the city. Plus, the proposal lacks explicit requirements or incentives for developers to create affordable housing in areas that would see zoning changes.

“So what we’re really looking at is going into mainly Black, brown and low-income neighborhoods that already are dense and making them denser,” Lemon Kearney said.

She went on to argue the outcome could just drive up market rates.

Mark Samaan, the vice president of the Northside Community Council, brought up other concerns.

“I’m hesitant, kind of, about the proposal because I think it’s a little broad and there’s other planning questions that come into it," Samaan said. "Like, what about parking requirements? So, if you’re allowed to build more units, you’re also required to build more parking. And so, this doesn’t really address that.”

The proposal will be voted on in the equitable growth and housing committee. If it passes, it will then move on to a vote in the city council Wednesday.

Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.

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