West End Housing Study – 2019

The West End Housing Study, led by The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (The Port) and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH), was released in September 2019.  The purpose of the study was to supplement existing data on West End real estate, contextualize the threat of displacement, and identify implementable housing strategies and recommendations for the future of real estate development in the West End.

The study found that there is a threat of displacement for some households in the West End:

  • 27% of households are extremely threatened.  This includes renters on fixed incomes and renters with earning less than $31,350 per year who live in unsubsidized housing;
  • 10% of households are very threatened.  This includes homeowners on fixed incomes, renters earning $41,150 to $50,150 a year who live in unsubsidized housing; and homeowners earning less than $18,000 a year;
  • 7% are threatened.  This includes homeowners earning between $18,000 to $50,150 a year.

The study also finds that there is a gap in housing stock for people across income levels.  Thus, there is a need for more naturally occurring affordable housing, as well as for more market-rate housing.

The study recommends a number of strategies to mitigate the threat of displacement, as well as to address the lack of price-appropriate housing across income levels.  One of the recommendations includes creating more housing units across income levels by adding:

  • 50 rental units priced at or below 50% AMI;
  • 456 rental units priced at or above 80% AMI; and
  • 148 ownership units priced at or above 100% AMI

The study also identifies four Catalytic Areas of Opportunity for future development. According to Laura Brunner, The Port President and CEO,  “The West End Housing Study findings underscore the concerns in the West End, which include an urgency to protect low- and moderate-income residents from displacement; stabilize existing housing; proactively create opportunity for economic mobility; and attract new capital investment and financing sources into the neighborhood from mission-aligned community finance institutions and developers. At The Port, we’ve been putting these principles to work in neighborhoods like Evanston and Bond Hill and have already initiated similar efforts to address these concerns in the West End.”

The Port is already taking action on some of the recommendations out of the study, including:

  • Preserving and replacing naturally occurring affordable housing in the West End by rehabbing 4 long-vacant and blighted apartment buildings with 18 rental units that will be affordable to low-to-moderate income renters.
  • Investing $727,000 this year to stabilize 6 historic properties, which includes 4 structures to be marketed for single-family sale at market rate, 2 through Habitat of Humanity and 2 commercial/multi-family for qualified resident renters and small business.
  • Using Kresge loan funds to invest in small brick and mortar businesses.
  • Revitalizing the Regal Theater

All of the Port’s residential and commercial revitalization work in the West End would not be possible without Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH), the long-time community development corporation in the neighborhood.  The partnership with SHNH has been critical to the Port’s success in the neighborhood, and it will continue to serve as The Port’s connection to the community, as well as to inform and guide its work there.  The Port has also provided updates and outreach to other West End stakeholders, including the West End Community Council, the FC Community Coalition, residents and others.

Alexis Kidd-Zaffer, Executive Director of SHNH, “Overall, this new study shows that, if the West End is going to retain its cultural legacy as a thriving center of economic and ethnic diversity,  there is clear need to keep people involved and continued community engagement, and that requires all stakeholders at the table. That intentional outreach to residents will go a long way in making sure all are engaged in the work ahead.”

The need for a Housing Study was established under the Community Benefits Agreement that includes MLS soccer franchise FC Cincinnati, The Port, and West End Community Council. FC Cincinnati funded $100,000 of the study, with The Port paying for the remainder.  FC Cincinnati also funded community engagement sessions designed to gather community input as to what changes could be made to the 2016 West End Speaks plan in light of the new soccer stadium and increased demand for neighborhood housing.  “This study highlights what we have believed: that the West End has experienced disinvestment for decades. FCC is proud to invest more than $250 million in private money in the neighborhood. The West End stadium will bring much-needed redevelopment and jobs,” said Jeff Berding, President and General Manager of FC Cincinnati. “We recognized that housing was an issue in the neighborhood before we began our project which is why we contributed $150,000 for this study to guide future redevelopment in an equitable way. We look forward to announcing soon another step in our ongoing relationship with The Port to invest in the West End.”