A long-standing West End nonprofit is launching a series of fundraisers next month to shore up and increase affordable housing in the neighborhood.
Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses traces its roots in the West End to 1961 and provides social services and a community gathering space from its home base at 901 Findlay St. The center serves as many as 3,000 people annually in a neighborhood where the median household income is roughly $12,500 a year.
Now, with big changes coming to the West End in the form of FC Cincinnati's coming stadium and increased interest in real estate there, Seven Hills is doubling down on efforts to make sure the historically black neighborhood stays affordable for its residents.
Seven Hills will host a trio of events called "Home Sweet Home" in late August to that end. Those events coincide with two reunion events in which former and current residents of the neighborhood get together and reconnect. Seven Hills' events include:
• The Celebrity Home Game, a quick slow-pitch softball game, will feature local officials and personalities from the Cincinnati Reds, business accelerator MORTAR, the Port of Greater Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Museum Center and others. The Museum Center will also present programming about the history of baseball and its local ties. The game will take place Aug. 29 from 6-9 p.m. at Weaver Field next to the Lindner YMCA. The game is free, but donations are encouraged.
• The next night, Seven Hills will host a 21-and-up homecoming dance at 901 Findlay St. That event will feature food and beverages and two floors of dancing from 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $25.
• Finally, Seven Hills will host the HomeRUN 5k the next morning, Aug. 31. The 3.1 mile race will start and end at the corner of Linn Street and Ezzard Charles Drive in Laurel Park, with a party at the park after the run. Registration for the run is $35 before Aug. 26 and $40 through the day of the race.
The three fundraisers, which organizers hope will raise between $100,000 and $200,000, are part of larger efforts by Seven Hills, the Port of Greater Cincinnati, the city and other groups to increase affordable housing options in the West End. Eventually Seven Hills would like to raise $2 million.
The nonprofit and The Port have already created a Housing Improvement Fund, part of efforts related to the coming FC Cincinnati West End soccer stadium. The team contributed $100,000 to that fund and also paid $150,000 for housing studies of the neighborhood.
So far, Seven Hills has received 16 applications to the fund, which can be used to renovate properties owned or inhabited by West End residents, to help mitigate rising property taxes and for other efforts to keep residents in their homes.
The housing study should be released before the summer is out. A preliminary version of the research released this spring suggests that roughly 1,200 households — about 34 percent of the neighborhood's population — are at high risk of displacement because they are on fixed incomes, have low incomes and already pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Another 300 households are at some risk.
More than 85 percent of the neighborhood residents are renters, according to Census data, and all of them are at risk of displacement as rents rise, according to the study. In addition, more than 350 homeowners could also face problems as property taxes and code compliance issues stack up.
The housing study is taking place concurrently with a separate community engagement effort led by Cincinnati-based Design Impact to gather qualitative information about the West End from residents.
About 1,400 units of housing in the neighborhood are subsidized — either via the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, their status as rent-controlled or Section 8. Another roughly 1,500 are market-rate.
"We're trying to protect the affordable units that currently exist in our community," Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses Executive Director Alexis Kidd said when the study was released. "Our mission is to serve our community and to improve the quality of life of our neighbors. Our agency takes those tough stances, standing with our community to make sure our residents are supported in any way we can."