Hamilton County spending $10 million in federal funds to renovate unused units for affordable housing

CINCINNATI — Tens of thousands of homes people can afford could soon hit the market in Hamilton County. The board of commissioners authorized spending $10 million from federal funds to help renovate unused units.

Commissioners laid out their plans in their new 2022 Recover Plan Performance Report. In all, the county commission plans to spend more than $40 million on affordable housing to help people like Louvernia Gillie who is on the verge of losing her family’s rental.

“I feel stressed and depressed,” she said. “It’s the price. Right now, (rent) is $700-and-something (a month) and it’s going to rise again. It’s putting us in a tough situation.”

The county was short 40,000 affordable homes, meaning rent/mortgage cost no more than 30% of the tenant/buyer’s income, for low-income families in 2017, according to Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Greater Cincinnati research.

“The gap has not really closed much and a lot of that, I think, has to do with the economy and where we are with work and jobs and wages and challenges that were presented by COVID,” said Kristen Baker, LISC Greater Cincinnati’s executive director.

LISC Greater Cincinnati found potentially low-hanging fruit that could feed a rebound. A 2021 study found 60,000 unused affordable home units that need renovation. It caught the attention of county commissioners who plan to spend $10 million to bring those units to families who need them.

“We’re not able to solve all the problems, but I think we can make a pretty good dent with the money we put aside,” Commissioner Alicia Reece said.

Gina Gehm, chief executive officer for Inclusive Housing Resources, a group with 400 affordable homes reserved for people with developmental disabilities in Hamilton and Butler Counties, is hopeful county investments will turn some of the tide facing development.

“It’s a cautious optimism because there are all of these pressures making the funds all work together, being able to access the hard materials, the site and the cost of renovation and construction,” she said. “It tampers some of that optimism to some degree.”

Her group opened new affordable homes in January, but they have more demand for units than space. Meanwhile, real estate and construction costs are rising while affordable housing funding streams are not. It leaves clients with special needs in difficult situations.

“There’s a very, very small number of units that are accessible,” Gehm said. “There are a very small number of units that are affordable. Trying to find the two of them together for individuals who need that accessibility and affordability is like finding a needle in a haystack.”

While commissioners hope to see bids as soon as next month, it is not clear how soon people like Gillie will see relief.

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LISC Greater Cincinnati found potentially low-hanging fruit that could feed a rebound. A 2021 study found 60,000 unused affordable home units that need renovation. It caught the attention of county commissioners who plan to spend $10 million to bring those units to families who need them.

Source: https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/hamilton-county-spending-10-million-in-federal-funds-to-renovate-unused-units-for-affordable-housing