Morning News: Millions in HUD dollars for local homelessness efforts; city likely to issue Dennison demolition permit; Kentucky legislature's busy day

Local agencies scored $17.5 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide 55 more units of permanent supportive housing options aimed at transitioning people out of homelessness.

click to enlarge The Dennison Building downtown - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
The Dennison Building downtown

Good morning all. I hope you had a good weekend during which you didn’t lose any fingers or toes to frostbite. At last count, I still had all of mine, so let me type some news out for you.

As more families experience homelessness, local groups struggling to serve them will get millions in federal funds this year. Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, the Interfaith Hospitality Network and Bethany House Services scored $17.5 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide 55 more units of permanent supportive housing options aimed at transitioning people out of homelessness. OTRCH will use the money to renovate two buildings that will serve as many as four families in OTR. Interfaith Hospitality will serve as many as 25 more families with the money and Bethany House will launch supportive housing for another 25 families. The latter two will also use the money to provide other services for homeless families in properties the organizations don’t own.

• Let’s stay on the money beat for a minute and talk about the $5 million a nonprofit is committing to loans designed to revitalize local business districts. The Kresge Foundation, which is based in Detroit and focuses on social investing to improve the prospects of low-income Americans, will loan the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority the money to administer the loans, which will be given to residents looking to start small businesses in neighborhoods like Evanston and Walnut Hills.

• Barring a court order, it looks like the city of Cincinnati will issue a demolition permit to Columbia REI, the company that owns the embattled Dennison Hotel downtown. Historic preservation activists want to save the 124-year-old building designed by the firm of noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, but Columbia, owned by auto magnates the Joseph family, would like to tear it down. The city's Historic Conservation Board denied Columbia's request to demolish the building, which sits in a historic district, but the city's Zoning Board of Appeals reversed that decision. Councilman Chris Seelbach has applied to get the building itself historic status in a last-ditch effort to save it. However, in a memo dated Jan. 6, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said that the pending historic designation application shouldn't delay the issuance of a demolition permit, and that even if Seelbach was successful in getting the designation, it probably wouldn't halt the building's demolition.

• The Cincinnati streetcar has a new general manager. Transdev, the company that contracts with the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority to run the streetcar, recently hired Luke McCaul to run the transit project. McCaul takes the reins from interim general manager Mark Young. McCaul has about 15 years of experience managing rail transit, most recently at Pan Am Railways, North America’s biggest regional rail carrier. 

• A couple weeks ago, we reported on local faith communities working to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants as president-elect Donald Trump promises mass deportations. The movement goes beyond churches and mosques, with a number of organizations working to convene support for immigrants ahead of the new administration. Among them are the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, who have established the Coalition for Immigrant Dignity to work with immigrant families to prepare for Trump’s policy changes. The group had its second meeting Sunday, which drew 100 people to Corryville to discuss future options. Among the attendees were representatives from the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, which is advocating making Cincinnati Public Schools buildings sanctuary spaces for immigrants. CFT is holding its own meeting Jan. 19 to demand the creation of those spaces as well as push back against Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos.

• Let’s head south of the river real quick and see what the Kentucky legislature is up to. Spoiler alert: a lot. The state’s newly Republican-dominated General Assembly on Saturday repealed wage laws requiring state and local construction projects to pay prevailing wages, prohibited union dues from being deducted from workers’ paycheck without written permission, passed so-called “right to work” legislation that prohibits unions from requiring workers join or pay dues, passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, passed a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion undergo and ultrasound before the procedure and passed a law abolishing the University of Louisville’s board of directors and allowing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin to appoint a new one pending state senate approval. Previously, Bevin dissolved the school’s board by executive order and established a new board with his own trustees. That triggered a lawsuit from Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and also caused the agency accrediting the school to put it on probation. The next step following that disciplinary action would be loss of accreditation for U of L. Bevin pledged so sign the abortion restriction bill first. Ohio passed similar restrictions, which are among the strictest in the country, last month.

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