A deal approved by City Council June 25 splits limited funds among two affordable housing projects, funding one in Over-the-Rhine and leaving the door open for another that’s been in the works for the last few years in Avondale.
A 100-unit permanent supportive housing project called Commons of Alaska first proposed in 2008 for Avondale has received support from the majority of council in the past, including indications it would get $500,000 in funding toward the facility. But the project has also been delayed as some in Avondale have protested the plans by Columbus-based National Church Residences.
As controversy stalled the Avondale project, Over the Rhine Community Housing put together an unrelated plan to buy up and rehab affordable housing in the Pendleton District in eastern Over-the-Rhine. The city administration indicated to OTRCH that it would be able to use $1.9 million in federal grant money the city holds to help purchase and restore the properties.
Just one catch — that’s all the grant money the city has for affordable housing and it’s the same pool of money that would have gone to NCR for Avondale.
As City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee met June 23, it looked like a battle was shaping up over the money.
But compromise won the day.
“Affordable housing and permanent supportive housing are in our heart, they’re what we do,” said Mary Burke Rivers, executive director of OTRCH. “It’s a really difficult position to be in right now, because we support the NCR project.”
Rivers asked the Budget Committee to work with both developers to figure out a way to do both projects. Vice Mayor David Mann offered an amendment to give $1.3 million to OTRCH and hold the other $500,000 or so in grant funds until the NCR project can be sorted out or until another supportive housing project can be worked out. The Budget Committee, and subsequently council, passed that deal.
That doesn’t mean the NCR project has a green light, however.
Some resident groups there say Avondale already has a high concentration of low-income housing, a result of historic inequalities in city planning going back to the 1960s.Permanent supportive housing provides affordable housing and recovery resources for those who would otherwise be homeless due to addiction problems, mental health issues or disabilities. The city’s Homeless to Homes program calls for supportive housing like the Commons at Alaska would provide, but currently the city only has about 15 percent of the units called for in the plan.