Port Shorts: OEDA Excellence in Innovation Award for CARE Homes Initiative

In October 2022, The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority was awarded the "Excellence in Innovation" Award from the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA) for The Port's CARE Homes Initiative. 

The Port's Executive Vice President, Philip Denning, explains the strategy and vision behind this program designed to foster generational wealth and protect our most vulnerable residents.

The Port is a quasi-governmental real estate development agency, and our mission really is, throughout Hamilton County here in Southwest Ohio, to make real estate work.

About a year ago, we really found out and began to understand the impact of institutional investment and institutional real estate ownership inside Hamilton County. We're talking about one out of every two or one out of every three homes on a street being owned by an Institutional Investor, and the impact that that has on neighbors and the impact of the house quality degrading through the Institutional Investor ownership. They're not doing maintenance; they're not cleaning out the gutters; they're ripping out landscaping; and kind of degrading the value of the neighborhood.

All of those impacts [of institutional investment] are compounding on our neighborhoods and residents both from a blight perspective, but especially on the inability of our residents in Hamilton County to begin their path to homeownership.

So, we leveraged our own balance sheet, and bid on these 194 single-family homes. We bid against 12 other potential institutional investors, all of whom wanted to do what institutional capital has done in the single-family market, which is to evict residents and raise rents.

Our mission was different. Our mission was to acquire the properties, prevent our tenants from being evicted, which we've done, provide opportunities for them to get rental assistance, and engage with local non-profits to provide homeownership counseling for the first time, maybe ever, for all of these tenants, and then, within five years, transition the entire property back to homeownership - hopefully with the current renters that are there - to really cut off the arm of the institutional investment reach into our County and stabilize our neighborhoods and properties so that we can truly help our citizens and residents build wealth from homeownership.

We've learned so much over the nine months of our ownership of this portfolio. These are people's homes, and the more we can do to help them stay in their homes and give them a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully to homeownership and greater wealth, has been a huge part of changing the way we're thinking inside of the Port as well.

Without our community advocates, without Colliers and WIN and all these stakeholders and organizations who are behind us and supporting us, the project simply wouldn't have been possible. As risky as this acquisition was and as Innovative as it was to use the structure that we have, the upside is going to be just as big because it's creating an opportunity at scale that we would never have been able to achieve in such a short amount of time.

From The Port, from all of our staff, from all of our many partners and non-profits that have worked with us, thank you. Thank you to the Ohio Economic Development Association for this Excellence and Innovation Award. We appreciate it and we're not going to stop trying to do more with Innovation and real estate inside of Ohio, because truly it's the only way we can grow our economy.