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UC econ professor: Cincinnati's 28K affordable housing unit shortage is an over-estimate

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 07:28:42-04

CINCINNATI — According to the Local Initiative Support Corporation, or LISC, Cincinnati is short nearly 28,000 affordable housing units, meaning apartments or homes.

University of Cincinnati economics professor Michael Jones said that number is an over-estimate – and that’s important when the issue on the ballot asks Cincinnati to fix the shortfall with $50 million tax payer dollars a year in November in the form of Issue 3.

“Depending on the geography that you’re talking about, you’re going to get different numbers for the affordable housing shortage,” Jones said.

With that in mind, he said, the affordable housing deficit in Cincinnati is more like 8,000 units – not 28,000.

The numbers Jones used to get that figure were pulled from a 2021 study by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. It estimates the regional affordable housing deficit is roughly 50,000 units. Regional is the key word.

Jones said the city’s affordable housing deficit is proportional to its share of housing units in the larger Tri-State area.

“And now the question is: What’s Cincinnati’s responsibility?” Jones asked. “Well, when you restrict Cincinnati to 17% of the housing units that are here in our borders, that’s where you get the number of about 8,000 units being short.”

He said Cincinnati shouldn’t be the only entity shouldering the issue, because people live, work and play across the entire Tri-State and there are other ways to make sure people can afford housing.

“Housing is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s also about health, it’s also about job training and so we need this whole package,” Jones said. “I think part of my responsibility to look at those things that maybe you don’t see – what are those unintended consequences when you allocate resources?”

Jones said by funding one thing, money might get diverted from something that really needs it.

The City of Cincinnati claims if Issue 3 passes, and the money to cover it comes from the general fund, it could affect jobs in areas like police, fire and trash pick-up.

“This isn’t a one-time thing, and it’s a risk. It’s a risky proposition,” Jones said. “I don’t think we fully understand the consequences. I don’t think we fully understand the magnitude.”

WCPO 9's ongoing series, Move Up Cincinnati, tracks regional growth and how our community is working to uplift those left behind. To contact the Move Up Cincinnati team, email us at moveupcincinnati@wcpo.com.