Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Public housing: Expand choices

Public housing authorities on both sides of the river are making real progress in spreading housing choices more broadly, but not without some neighborhood resistance.

Five jurisdictions - Anderson Township, Sycamore Township, Symmes Township, Madeira and Deer Park - have rejected Hamilton County funding from Community Development Block Grants to avoid the federally required public housing that comes with it. County Prosecutor Mike Allen has been asked if it's legal to turn down federal block grant money. Housing for low-income families doesn't need to be framed as a struggle that pits inner city against suburbs, city against county, rental housing against homeownership. Everybody can win by increasing the supply of better housing choices.

Newport is using $28 million in federal HOPE VI housing grants to raze barracks-like public housing near its riverfront and move low-income residents to 313 better units in other parts of the city, including a new Liberty Row housing development on West Eighth Street. The move will free up prime riverfront property to continue the redevelopment begun with Riverboat Row and Newport on the Levee.

Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) is transforming the West End and has bought more than 100 units scattered throughout the county in pursuit of last year's agreement with Hamilton County commissioners for 450 such sites. The county also has asked for federal approval to increase its number of housing vouchers to almost 2,900. Some suburbs do not want either public housing units or portable vouchers that subsidize low-income renters to find housing of their own choosing.

CMHA Director Donald Troendle says Anderson's publicly assisted housing units total only 1 percent versus 1.8 percent countywide and 14 percent in Cincinnati. Only about 12 percent of Anderson's 15,000 housing units are rental. Cincinnati's rentals total about 62 percent. Six neighborhoods with 25 percent of Cincinnati's population have a combined total of only 25 assisted households. Clearly, both the city and county have a way to go to reduce the overconcentration of poor households and disperse them more widely. If Cincinnati and Hamilton County hope to reverse their population loss, they ought to be doing all they can to increase housing choices for all income levels, homeowners and renters.

Weed and Seed: Put up the signs
Public housing: Expand choices
City should be able to maintain Antares
Readers' Views