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Renting Vs. Owning

By Readers · February 18th, 2009 · Letters
Renting Vs. Owning

Kevin Osborne’s interview with Greg Harris, newly appointed to Cincinnati City Council (“At Home on City Council,” issue of Feb. 11), included a few incorrect or misleading statements.

The article quotes an increase in Section 8 Housing between 1994 and 2004, but methodology and dispersal, not quantity, changed. In 1994, the majority of subsidized housing was public housing or privately owned subsidized buildings, “project based.” This clustering was considered detrimental to renters and to neighborhoods; federal policy dictated a change from projects to the housing choice voucher program known as Section 8. Over time, many large-scale projects and public housing units were replaced with vouchers. The total number of subsidized units available in the community has increased only about 5-6 percent, mostly in units for elderly and disabled residents.

Harris states, “There’s enough Section 8 housing. … What we’re not lacking right now is low-income housing.” Sadly, we do lack both subsidized and affordable unsubsidized housing here. Nationally, government-subsidized rental housing is available for only one out of three eligible households.

The Hamilton County Section 8 Waiting List is closed, with approximately 9,000 households waiting; there’s no indication that the list will reopen within the next year.

There are very few quality market-rate apartments in Hamilton County affordable to a low-wage worker working full time.

In Greater Cincinnati, families with incomes under $30,000 per year can’t afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment.

Many Cincinnati jobs pay less than the $13/hour that would enable a head of household working full-time to afford an apartment. This can mean doubling up, substandard housing and living in cars or in shelters, all undesirable for the family and for the community.

Harris states that increased homeownership is the key to positive change, and we agree that home ownership can be a great opportunity.

Rental housing is also a great choice and positive component in city communities. A creative and technology-based economy needs a mobile labor pool that can move where jobs are created; these are renters.

Rental housing is the affordable choice for many of the backbone workers of our economy who earn less than $45,000/year. The current foreclosure crisis has shown home purchase can be a poor choice for many community residents.

Economists have shown that homeownership — a risky and illiquid investment — is often not the best financial choice for people whose income is low or unstable or who are expecting life changes like marriage, retirement, starting a business, going to school or serious health conditions. And individuals who lack skills, time or capital for home upkeep might wisely choose to pay a professional — a landlord — to assure quality maintenance.

Renters shop in stores, vote in elections, volunteer and send their kids to school just like homeowners do. They pay sales and income taxes and pay their portion of property taxes in their rent. Landlords provide a useful business and investment in neighborhoods. Rental housing generally uses resources more efficiently, resulting in a lower carbon footprint. Vibrant, healthy cities throughout Europe and on the East and West coasts include high levels of quality apartment rentals — often the choice for walkable, dynamic, environmentally sustainable communities.

— Rina Saperstein Board Member, Affordable Housing Advocates

Rock on, Blue Note

This past weekend marked the final days of The Blue Note in Price Hill after 18 years of being one of the premier rock clubs in Cincinnati (Spill It, issue of Feb. 11). The club was bought by the owners of the Strasse Haus in Covington and will continue as a live music venue under the name Studio 8.

As a full-time musician who lives on the West Side and has played The Blue Note since the beginning, I wish Doug Gundrum and his staff all of the best as well as the incoming ownership. I hope those good times will continue for years to come.

— Bob Cushing, Delhi



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