A plan that would establish 20 new units of affordable housing — as well as renovated commercial space — in Lower Price Hill got key approval from Cincinnati City Council Feb. 20.
The project at 2113-2117 W. Eighth St. would rehabilitate two commercial spaces with two apartments each above them and construct 16 new units of housing next door. Lower Price Hill nonprofit Community Matters is partnering with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH) on the project.
Before it goes forward, however, the effort needed a zoning change.
"We feel that this zoning is vital to our neighborhood," Lower Price Hill Community Council President Cynthia Ford told council's Economic Growth & Zoning Committee today (Feb. 19). "We are following our resurgence plan, which is to bring more vitality and energetic activity into our community. This area has been somewhat neglected prior to now. This is something that is very important to us."
That committee, made up of councilmembers Amy Murray, Jeff Pastor and Christopher Smitherman, voted to bring the zoning request before full council. Council approved it unanimously.
Neighborhood groups say they have community support for the plan.
"We have worked really closely together as a community and we've been developing our plans as a united front with all the key stakeholders in the community," Community Matters Executive Director Mary Delaney said. "This launches us forward on the next step toward getting some key properties back in use."
Councilmember Pastor questioned the plan because it contains housing that is income-restricted in a neighborhood that is already experiencing deep concentrated poverty. That contributes to housing segregation, he said. He also cited concerns about traffic and the proximity of a fire station near the proposed development brought by a Lower Price Hill resident.
Pastor ended up voting to approve the zoning request, however.
"My concern is that we're putting quote-unquote 'quality affordable housing' at a busy intersection and saying that it's something that is needed," Pastor said. "What I would like to be able to see is mixed-income housing in Lower Price Hill. This is a huge concern for me."
Neighborhood groups and the organizations undertaking the project, however, said that the housing planned for the project will serve a wide swath of incomes and that housing is needed at all levels in Lower Price Hill.
OTRCH and Community Matters are pursuing Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for the program, the groups say.
"The region is in an affordable housing crisis," OTRCH Development Project Manager Ben Eilerman said. "This project looks to address folks at the very lowest level and also incorporates units for folks who can afford higher rent. This is only part of the work that is going on in Lower Price Hill. There are also home ownership opportunities that community council is working on with Habitat for Humanity."