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Proposal to reform density restrictions in Cincinnati voted down

Cincinnati City Hall
Posted at 9:00 PM, Mar 15, 2022

CININNATI — A highly contested proposal to lift density restrictions throughout the city failed in a committee vote at City Hall. The proposal lost 5-2 with one abstention, derailing it from a subsequent vote in city council.

The Equitable Growth and Housing committee voted on the proposal that would have allowed for more, smaller housing units to be created in existing and future buildings after almost two hours of public comment from about 70 speakers.

Supporters upheld the proposal to boost housing density as an opportunity to create more affordable housing.

“It is important to note that Cincinnati grew by 12,000 people last decade but lost 2,000 units of housing,” said Austin Railey of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “This is significant because we are one of only two cities in the state of Ohio that grew in the last census. And we want to make sure that we continually address the housing issue but also that we stay ahead of the curve and show why we are only one of two cities that are moving forward.”

However, the vast majority of speakers were against the proposal. Critics pointed out the proposal does not explicitly demand developers create affordable housing in those new units.

“This ordinance does nothing to address the gap in affordable housing in our community. We are very much in favor of increasing density and modifying zoning to be more inclusive. However, we do not see this as an effective way to do so,” said LaTonya Springs, the assistant director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal.

Opponents like Springs say the ordinance could have unintentionally encouraged more high-priced housing rates instead.

“The flawed logic is that, ‘we will disregard the feedback of the people who live in the city,” Abbey Tissot said. “And the disregarded voices are telling you that the measure as implemented as is currently written would decrease quality of life for those of us who are already there and ensure units that are unsatisfactory that are built to bring more people there.”

Tom Leinhardt of Northside shared Tissot’s quality of life concerns.

“Can you raise a family in a hotel room?" Leinhardt said. "Because the average hotel room is 325 feet. The new proposal here talks about 350 square feet. Does 350 square feet attract families or transients? Do transients achieve the goals of sustainability that we’re trying to get?”

Council Member Liz Keating who introduced the bill last May during the previous administration and committee chair Reggie Harris voted in favor of the ordinance proposal. Council Members Jeff Cramerding, Mark Jeffreys, Scotty Johnson, Victoria Parks and Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney voted against the proposal. Council Member Meeka Owens voted to abstain.

Prior to the vote, Harris proposed that city officials draft an amendment to the proposal that would have incorporated opposing residents’ concerns into a modified draft of the proposal. That idea for an amendment was voted down during the public hearing as well.

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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