Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati (HOME) is exceptionally qualified to assist policy makers and their advisors. We are a non-profit corporation best situated to advise on housing stability solutions in the Cincinnati region and statewide. Since 1959 HOME has worked to make Greater Cincinnati a completely open housing market. In 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed, HOME became incorporated with the mission to eliminate illegal housing discrimination. HOME serves the most vulnerable populations in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, and Warren Counties in stabilizing their housing, this includes people of color, children, people with disabilities and seniors. Our mission is to eliminate unlawful discrimination in housing in the Greater Cincinnati area. HOME advocates and enforces housing regulations for all protected classes and promotes stable, integrated communities. HOME has three programs that address our mission: The Fair Housing Enforcement Program, Educational programming, and the Tenant Advocacy Program. As the result of COVID19 we are expanding our expertise. Request a PDF version of this statement here.
COVID19 Emerging Issues in Housing
- Answering concerns about unlawful discrimination in housing tied to COVID19 in terms of targeting based on disability, harassment, racial disparities and national origin.
- Client fear of a COVID19 diagnosis will lead to a loss of housing.
- Addressing tenant fears about the inability to pay rent due to loss of income and fear of mass evictions once court holds and moratoriums are lifted. Coordinating solutions to save housing.
- Adapting housing discrimination investigation methodology to meet the requirements of the stay at home orders.
- Using podcasts, video conferencing and other remote technology to educate housing consumers and housing providers about fair housing, implicit bias, tenant/landlord relations, health, and housing. https://soundcloud.com/user790526164.
- Using our long standing community connections to engage our neighbors about their housing rights.
- Exploring the connection between the CARES Act provisions, existing housing protections and sustainable housing policy.
- Research and analysis of racial disparities in terms of COVID19 infection and mortality. The impact of COVID19 policies and practices may have on communities of color, seniors, people with disabilities, and others.
Environmental Scan: Understanding the New Normal
COVID-19 has created a domino effect of health, economic, and social issues. Everyone has been affected by the virus, but not by the same degree. According to the CDC, a disproportionate number of minorities are becoming ill and dying from COVID-19. Minorities are more likely to live in densely populated, multigenerational households, and work as essential workers thus making them more likely to become infected with the virus. They have underlying health issues making them more venerable and are less likely to have health insurance and access to health care. Nearly 25% of African Americans and Hispanics work in essential industries, increasing their risk of infection and most have no paid sick leave. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
In addition to the challenges listed above, people of color are more likely to lose their homes. A housing crisis similar to 2008 is looming with renters and landlords affected. (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/102013/avoiding-a-covid-19-disaster-for-renters-and-the-housing-market_1.pdf). The reality is that a dearth of housing for protected classes and low-income individuals dates back to the housing crisis and recession of 2008. According to the Fair Housing Assessment for Cincinnati and Hamilton County published in August 2019, urban regions are still struggling to address lack of affordable housing. “The national factors for this problem include reductions in federal funding to provide affordable housing, stagnation of wages, an aging housing stock, urban sprawl, and lack of housing supply as well as increasing demand for real estate within urban regions after years of population loss and disinvestment.”
Locally, 42% of Hamilton County residents are renters.
https://www.deptofnumbers.com/rent/ohio/hamilton-county/ . Twenty-eight percent of U.S adults have no emergency savings. One reason is that salaries have not kept pace with expenses. https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-june-2019/. Another reason is the rent burden experienced by renters in Hamilton County. https://public.tableau.com/shared/3NQDPXKYW?:toolbar=n&:display_count=n&:origin=viz_share_link&:embed=y
Working families are least able to have savings, as they address one financial crisis after the next. Renters need relief on their monthly payments. But the burden cannot shift to the landlords. While landlords expect a certain level of rent nonpayment, they are not financially prepared for a pandemic that is causing unprecedented failure to pay rent.
Renters and housing providers will both lose without state policies to protect home stability. Without direct rental payments to keep renters in their homes, they may stop paying rent, forcing property owners to evict them. But prohibiting evictions will place a severe financial burden on property owners who are struggling financially due to no, reduced or late rent payments. To ease their expenses, they may reduce staff who repair and maintain properties. Some may need to raise cash by selling properties, thus causing a possible real estate crash. (https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/102013/avoiding-a-covid-19-disaster-for-renters-and-the-housing-market_1.pdf)
If new federal funding comes to local governments in the next COVID-19 package, money must be earmarked for housing stability. The City of Cincinnati recently furloughed 25% of its workforce and is facing a budget with a $100 million deficit. Hamilton County furloughed 10% of its general fund employees and is facing a $40-60 million deficit. Local governments do not have the resources to address this oncoming housing crisis. Eviction courts in Hamilton County are prepared to hear 100 eviction cases a week, up from 40 cases pre-pandemic. Eviction cases are being scheduled as far out as July.
As a policy influencer and advocate, you see the shocking impact of COVID19, devastating local communities and magnifying existing disparities. You are justifiably concerned about the many consequences of COVID19, especially how people of color are disproportionately impacted. You are also concerned about housing stability from an economic growth perspective. Yet, according to Eviction Lab (https://evictionlab.org/covid-policy-scorecard/), Ohio has not implemented statewide orders that would prevent evictions and foreclosures during and immediately following the pandemic. Out of a possible 5-point scoring system, OH rated .58 placing the state 36 of the 50 states regarding home stability. Without action and supportive measures that would prevent evictions for renters or foreclosures for homeowners, Ohio is expected to see a surge of evictions during and immediately following the pandemic.
Failure to stabilize housing now will have long-term effects on the overall economic health of all Greater Cincinnati communities.
Consequences of no policies to protect renters
- Harassment from bad actors in property management– With eviction dockets scheduled out for some time, unscrupulous landlords could turn off utilities, change locks and harass renters to make them vacate the premises.
- Decrease in housing options – Due to lack of rental income, some landlords will face foreclosure, thus placing further strain on a community that lacks housing options.
- Eviction – Renters will not have money to rent another property. This will result in families moving in with family members or friends or become homeless.
- Living with others in cramped quarters will cause greater risk of infection from COIVD-19
- Living with others in cramped quarters could cause increase domestic violence in households already experiencing increased tension. https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/domestic-violence-child-abuse
- Unemployment – Those evicted may find living arrangements that are not near public transportation, thus causing a person to lose their job.
- Homelessness – Renters who do not have other living alternatives may live in cars or on the street.
Consequences of no policies to protect housing providers
- Foreclosures on properties – Due to lack of rental income, some landlords will face foreclosure, further destabilizing a community in crisis.
Sustainable Solutions Worth Exploration:
Health experts agree that this may not be the last pandemic we see – or even the end of the current one. To support communities in the region, we recommend the following for consideration:
- Housing policy that acknowledges and addresses long-term structural disparities and provides tools to eliminate the legacy of illegal discrimination.
- Incentivize perpetual affordable housing – such as a Housing Trust Fund with dedicated COVID 19 funding sources and wi-fi everywhere.
- Broad, state-wide eviction and other economic stability relief.
- Multidisciplinary resources that focuses on housing instability related to COVID19- with a focus on racial disparities, health, illegal discrimination, income changes and housing conditions.
- Long range stability measured focused on COVID19 financial hardships such as an elimination of late fees related to housing and easing of negative credit reporting.
- Create a data cohort that examines racial, health, economic development, and historical patterns of discrimination data sets. Employ data ethicist to ensure the equitable use of data.
- Robust tenant advocacy and dedicated resources to support tenant organizing.
- Public/Private efforts to address housing instability caused by COVID19 including a focus on equitable neighborhood development (e.g., the more than 20 local Opportunity Zones).
- Future COVID19 relief and other relief earmarked for rent relief, foreclosure prevention, and homeownership, wealth development, and housing stability.
- Encourage courts to hold informal meetings with tenants and property managers to seek mediated agreements before permitting landlords to file evictions after the holds/moratorium is over.
- Direct local law enforcement to prevent landlords from taking the law into their own hands with “self-help evictions” such as turning off utilities, padlocking the premises, or seizing a tenant’s belongings.
Our many years of expert service in the surrounding communities has created a level of trust with diverse populations, local agencies, and government officials. We believe our community effectiveness is because HOME values inclusionary leadership on the board and staff level. With a strategic financial response, the Cincinnati region and OH can mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on residents and the economy. We are ready and willing to help. For more information contact Jeniece Jones, MPA, JD, HOME Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org.