Cincinnati City Council Ordinance Could Save Lower Price Hill Affordable Housing Project

The project creating 47 units of affordable housing has garnered more than $10 million in tax credits, but did not get a needed $1 million from the city. Council member P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed a solution.

Oct 9, 2020 at 10:29 am
click to enlarge Housing slated for renovation under the LPH Thrives project. - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Housing slated for renovation under the LPH Thrives project.

A recent battle over affordable housing in Lower Price Hill could get a quick resolution — if Cincinnati City Council votes on $1 million from the city via an ordinance proposed by council member P.G. Sittenfeld.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who has voiced opposition to the project, has the final call on when council takes up the ordinance, however.

The 47-unit project by Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and nonprofit Community Matters, called LPH Thrives, would include 10 renovated buildings and a new building, as well as mixed-use space. The effort has garnered more than $10 million in investment via Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Preservation Tax Credits.

But the project needs another $1 million in financing. The city recently declined LPH Thrives' application for that money made through its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process. Another 10 projects were funded via that process. CityBeat has requested the scorecards for those projects, but has not received them from the city yet.

Sittenfeld has suggested using federal funds called HOME grants that usually go to NOFA applicants to make sure the Lower Price Hill project happens. Without the final bit of financing in place, the project could lose its tax credits.

Sitttenfeld said that letting that happen is "not an option."

"This is a project worth fighting for and worth saving," he said.

The city has cited code violations on buildings owned by Community Matters as a reason for turning down its loan application, but Community Matters Executive Director Mary Delaney says the nonprofit seeks out buildings in bad condition to renovate and that those code violations preexist the group's ownership.

Mayor Cranley has said he prefers home ownership initiatives like one Habitat for Humanity is undertaking in the neighborhood that will renovate eight houses for low-income families. That project got NOFA funding.

But supporters of LPH Thrives, including Habitat for Humanity Cincinnati CEO Ed Lee, say that both rental and home ownership opportunities are needed for low-income families like those in Lower Price Hill as the city faces a 28,000-rental-unit affordable housing deficit. The median income in the neighborhood is just under $15,000 a year.

Delaney vowed to keep pushing the project forward and said she hoped the money would materialize.

"I just can't wait for you to come back when these buildings are full of families," she told a group attending a news conference announcing Sittenfeld's ordinance outside some of the buildings slated for potential renovation under the project.

Sittenfeld's office has requested the ordinance be put on next week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting. That call, however, belongs to Mayor Cranley.