CINCINNATI — According to the 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report, Ohio is in the middle of the pack, nationally, when it comes to the percentage of people who are homeless. But leaders from across the state believe one way to move down on that chart is to increase the amount of affordable housing.
Kimberly Walker knows first-hand the importance of affordable housing. Before moving into the Recovery Hotel in Cincinnati in 2020, she was worried about finding a place to stay.
“I didn’t have income, so my concern was would I be able to find somewhere to live or them help me find somewhere to live without an income,” said Walker.
But it’s not just income that’s preventing people like walker to find affordable housing. City leaders in Cincinnati believe it has a lot to do with out-of-state landlords buying up properties across the city and not taking care of them.
“These investments and these investors are not adding value,” said Luke Blocher, Cincinnati Development Fund Chief Strategy Officer. “They’re extracting value from the community. I think there’s a real challenge that is happening around the country, but especially here.”
Blocher was among Cincinnati officials, bankers and developers who attended a senate select committee meeting on housing in Columbus to discuss these issues. He believes the discussion was just one piece of the puzzle.
“We were, I think, glad to hear that the state senate and some of the state senate leaders were interested in how the state legislature could enforce more transparency and who owns these properties so that the city can keep track of who these landlords are and can find them and can enforce the rules against them,” he said.
Tenants aren’t the only ones who have run into issues with landlords. Mary Rivers, executive director of Over-The-Rhine Community Housing, said those landlords can make her job tougher too.
“Their properties are not well maintained, and it’s a huge challenge for us and other folks who are administering rental subsidy programs, including, I would say, CMHC is finding the landlords with good properties,” she said.
She believes Issue 24 would help. If passed, it would restore the affordable housing trust fund and increase the earned income tax. It would generate anywhere between $30 and $50 million every year and would be used toward affordable housing in Cincinnati.
“I think Issue 24 can help to address that so that it can stay in local hands and that the local providers will then have the resources to make it work because it is challenging,” she said.
As for Walker, she said she hopes more people get the support and help like she did to find housing quality housing.
“There’s so many homeless people, you know, and I think everybody deserves somewhere to live,” she said.