CINCINNATI – A group of Greater Cincinnati’s religious leaders on Wednesday took a vote that they hope will make life better for the region’s poor.
The Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati adopted a list of nine “Housing Principles,” designed to encourage the development of more affordable housing.
“Sacred scriptures tell us to make sure no one wants for food, clothing and shelter,” states the Preamble to the Housing Principles. “Our interfaith coalition historically and at present sees homelessness and affordable housing as a major social issue that demands more work be done.”
MARCC voted on the principles because multi-million dollar projects developed in recent years have displaced affordable housing at a time when the community desperately needs it, said Executive Director Margaret Fox.
“There’s been a significant loss of affordable housing units in downtown, Over-the-Rhine and across the city,” Fox said. “We realize development has to happen, but these affordable housing units are not being replaced.”
A two-bedroom apartment or house in the Greater Cincinnati region is defined as affordable if the rent is $735 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
To afford that amount, however, a renter would have to earn roughly $14.50 per hour, Fox said.
“If you’re unemployed, you’re not making that kind of money,” she said. “If you’re homeless, you’re not making that kind of money. If you’re mentally challenged, you’re not making that kind of money.”
MARCC’s Housing Principles call on local government officials, nonprofit developers and business leaders to:
• Promote the Fair Housing Act, by prohibiting discrimination.
• Apply The Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Serve Economic Justice, by dedicating a portion of all government grants to affordable housing development.
• Reduce Foreclosures.
• Maintain Affordable Rental Units.
• Set Reasonable Rental Subsidies to Attract Responsible Investors.
• Acknowledge the Real Unemployment Rate, by including people who are unemployed for a year or more.
• Support Housing for Young Adults, by increasing the number of affordable rental units for young adults aging out of foster care and risk becoming homeless at 18.
• Advocate for Restorative Justice, by finding ways to lessen stigma and barriers for people with criminal histories who need affordable housing.
Among those who spoke in support of the principles were The Most Reverend Joseph Binzer, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, along with representatives of the Cincinnati Islamic Community Center and the Unitarian Universalist Council of Greater Cincinnati.
The next step for MARCC will be communicating the principles with parishioners, city officials, business leaders and nonprofit developers, Fox said.
Part of the goal is to raise awareness of the need, Binzer said, since the issue of poverty can be “out of sight” and “out of mind.”
“Where it really begins to hit home is when you know someone who is struggling with unemployment or foreclosure or has had to move in with another family member,” he said. “It’s a concern not only for Catholics, but for other people of faith, too.”