Economically Moral? (It Is Possible)

Economically Moral? (It Is Possible)

So – I think I have made it pretty clear how I feel about the Anna Louise Inn/Western & Southern “deal.”

The “deal” was not a “win/win.”  When one paints one into a corner, one forgoes one’s ability to use the term, “win/win.”

Many people have supported the fact that I continue to publicly support Anna Louise Inn and Cincinnati Union Bethel (who owns the Inn) – others have told me to “let it go.”

Sorry, that’s not going to happen.

Let us, for the purposes of this post, step back from the microcosm of the Anna Louise Inn situation and look at the bigger picture – that of the serious lack of affordable housing in Cincinnati.

Let us also remember that the number one cause of homelessness is lack of affordable housing.

Let us also remember that poverty breeds desperation which breeds crime which breeds more prisoners which breeds less people employed which breeds a dwindling tax base which breeds budget deficits which breeds the lack of security of our first responders’ jobs.

Let us reference PLAN Cincinnati which calls for 1,200 units of affordable housing Downtown (Central Business District [CBD] Downtown, not Over-the-Rhine Downtown).

Let us note that there are currently (taking Anna Louise Inn out of the equation) THIRTY units of affordable housing Downtown in the CBD.  WITH Anna Louise Inn we are still only talking 120 units of affordable housing.  Still a far cry from 1,200.

Let us step away from the morality (or lack thereof) of Western & Southern & their latest acquisition and have a look at the legality (or lack thereof) of the situation.

Yes, affordable housing advocates are upset.  Yes, those who have fought for justice for many, many years are peeved.  Yes, rights-based groups of every kind are up in arms.

But why isn’t the City Government?

Western & Southern, in a true “about face,” very literally overrode City Council, who told them they could not have Anna Louise Inn, yet they got it any way.  As far back as three years ago our Local Government told Western & Southern to back off.  Yet, Western & Southern pushed on and proved that their financial weight trumps elected authority.

To me, this is a very dangerous precedent.

Are elected officials remaining quiet because it is an election year?  Do they feel that this “deal” was a “win/win?”  Or are there simply just so many other things on their minds right now that they don’t have time to comment?

Whatever the reason, I know that if I were on Council TODAY, I would be screaming from the rooftops if for no other reason than Western & Southern does not control this City.  The people do.  The elected officials do.  Or, at least I thought they did.

Which brings me to an equitable, economically sound solution:  Anti-Displacement Ordinances.

These ordinances are nothing new, but they are truly foreign in Cincinnati.  In Cincinnati, if someone wants a building that has people in it – and that someone has enough power and/or money – they can have that building.  End of story.  An anti-displacement ordinance would make this impossible.  Yes, buildings could be acquired, but, like most actions in a democracy, there would be a process in place that oversaw the economic AND moral benefit of the deal (yes, it IS possible to be economically savvy AND morally inclined – in fact, the two tend to work best hand in hand).

Furthermore, an anti-displacement ordinance would NOT make it impossible to reinvest and develop.  No, but it WOULD make that reinvestment and development more equitable & long-lasting (i.e., the folks currently occupying said building to be redeveloped would be given ample notice, time, and finances to relocate).  A community that values ALL of its citizens is one that thrives.  A City that makes it possible for everyone to succeed is one in which people want to live and raise a family – it is also one that does not have to rely on debt-financing to get by until the next fiscal crisis.

There are numerous resources out there on anti-displacement legislation.  Seminole County has outlined some criteria here – you will notice that the anti-displacement ordinance sees to it that buildings are kept up to standard so that they are not even eligible to be bought out.  Only buildings that are in terrible condition are eligible for redevelopment.  Those living in these shoddy conditions will be relocated to suitable housing as part of the anti-displacement ordinance.  This is bad news for slum lords – good news for low-income people.  I know on whose side I am.

I will push for such an ordinance when I am elected to City Council.  An anti-displacement ordinance will promote many things, but the main three (as I see them) are:

1)  Equitable redevelopment of our City’s 52 neighborhoods.

2)  A reduction in sub par living conditions promoted by slum lords.

3)  Protection of our City’s affordable housing stock; resulting in less crime and lower taxes.

Some of you may be saying, “Yeah, but the residents of Anna Louise Inn ARE getting nicer housing.  And they were given ample time of two years to move.  And they ARE getting money to relocate.”  True – but they would not have been able to be bullied in court for three years and drained of funds because an anti-displacement ordinance would have made note of the fact that Anna Louise Inn was NOT in shoddy condition.  Furthermore – I encourage anyone who believes that Anna Louise Inn is definitely moving to Mt. Auburn to show me the paperwork that certifies that the deal is done.

Spoiler alert:  you will be looking for a long, long time.

If you care about Cincinnati and want to see us grow in a way we could have never imagined, join me in bringing along ALL of our citizens and neighborhoods on the journey.  For, if we all move forward together, I promise you that our future will be brighter.  All of us will succeed and have fuller lives – from corporate giants like Western & Southern to residents at Anna Louise Inn.  We need each other if we are to right the ship.  And, sometimes, we need laws to help encourage us to see how dependent we truly are upon one another.