Today’s advocacy briefing comes to you from affordable housing advocate Elizabeth Brown, a member of Christ Church Cathedral.

There is a controversial charter amendment on the May 4 ballot in Cincinnati to establish and provide steady funding for an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Issue 3 is the result of a grassroots effort that collected enough petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot despite opposition from City Council. While housing prices and rents are fast increasing and development is booming, Cincinnati is behind other cities in creating affordable housing for its residents. Studies in the last few years call it an “affordable housing crisis” noting that the situation is getting worse due to gentrification and increasing housing costs.

If passed, Issue 3 would require $50 million a year be placed in an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It provides several options, but does not specify one funding source, leaving City Council flexibility in raising revenue or moving funding from other program areas. An opposition campaign, well-funded by business interests and the police union, is flooding residents with flyers claiming if Issue 3 passes the city will have to cut police and fire departments and popular programs like recreation centers and recycling.

Issue 3 is the result of years of frustration at the city’s lack of attention to affordable housing, while giving public resources to support market-rate and luxury housing.  Whether or not Issue 3 passes, it has the attention of city officials who finally say they understand the need and are floating alternative proposals to increase funding for affordable housing. Without the mandate of a charter amendment, advocates of Issue 3 are doubtful the attention would last long.

The League of Women Voters has a full explanation of Issue 3 on its online voter guide, The campaign in support of Issue 3 is Cincinnati Action for Housing Now.

Christ Church Cathedral member Elizabeth Brown, JD, is one of Cincinnati’s leading experts on affordable housing, working on housing development with HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), then as Executive Director of HOME (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) until her retirement. She represents the Diocese of Southern Ohio on the Executive Board of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati, and continues to advance housing justice through AHA (Affordable Housing Advocates).