Posted August 29, 20228:00 pm
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The city of Cleveland unveiled $102.5 million in new, COVID-19 stimulus funding Monday, with nearly half of that going to “housing for all.”
The proposed housing policies include $35 million to incentivize public/private housing, $10 million in home repair funds and $5 million for a revolving loan pool for small and minority contractors to build in underserved neighborhoods.
Of the $35 million in incentives for public/private housing – which must meet eco-friendly building standards -- $25 million would be for affordable housing and $10 million would be for “market rate” housing. The goal is to create 1,500 affordable housing units and 1,650 “market rate” housing units and begin awarding funding by early 2023.
Housing projects are the largest portion of the city’s latest $102.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars announced Monday at a Cleveland City Council Caucus meeting. Roughly $97 million of the newly introduced funding was put forth by Mayor Justin Bibb. The remaining dollars were proposed by City Council and included funding for groups that support domestic violence survivors and residents needing legal services for housing issues.
Bibb also proposed spending: $16.4 million for modernizing City Hall, $10.1 million on violence prevention, $12.5 million on economic recovery and $3 million on “arts and neighborhoods.”
“We received the eighth largest amount because the federal government deemed we had an emergency,” said City Council President Blaine Griffin, comparing Cleveland’s ARPA funds to other cities. “That’s why it’s very important for us to get these dollars out into the street to mitigate a crisis.”
Cleveland still has plenty to spend. The $102.5 in newly announced funds make up only one-third of the city’s remaining ARPA dollars.
City officials are also deciding how they want to vote on future ARPA spending – whether they want to split the legislation into several bills or approve a single, omnibus proposal. Griffin said he prefers breaking the spending into three or four different bills.
Housing needs in Cleveland are so severe, the city would likely be unable to solve the problem even if it spent all of the $512 million in ARPA dollars it received on housing, said Alyssa Hernandez, the city’s director of development, during a presentation to council.
Rather than fund the solution itself, the city sees its ARPA funds as a “spark” to “push and pull housing into areas of highest need,” Hernandez said.
The reception from City Council on the housing proposals was largely positive, with the exception of some council members, who argued for a larger focus on increasing private home ownership.
“I want to see single-family houses,” said Councilman Mike Polensek. “This is an opportunity. We’ve got to be very creative with how we spend this money.”
Council President Griffin agreed.
“Homeownership is crucial to building wealth,” Griffin said.
The administration plans to address those concerns in the future though a program that would help residents afford a housing down payment, which is a barrier to many seeking to own a home, said Sally Martin, the director of building and housing.
Bibb’s proposal to spend $50 million in ARPA funding on housing is buoyed by $1 million in proposed funding from City Council for legal aid for low-income tenants who are facing eviction. The $1 million would add to previous city funding that has already shown results, said Colleen Cotter, the executive director of Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Before the city stepped in with its Right to Counsel program, only 1% of qualified low-income tenants had legal representation, but since then, that number has increased to 60%, and Cotter said more ARPA dollars could boost that percentage even more.
“We are seeing increased evictions. It dropped during COVID, and it is now increasing,” Cotter said.
Keeping families in their homes is “critical for family and community stability,” Cotter said.
While housing makes up the bulk of the newly unveiled ARPA spending, it was just a piece of a six-hour marathon session in which new projects were unveiled.
While some proposals, such as $2.3 million to add dashboard cameras in police cars, faced no vocal opposition, other proposals were more controversial. For example, councilmembers Rebecca Maurer and Stephanie Howse said they opposed nearly $2.8 million for expanding gunshot detection technology. They questioned the effectiveness of the program – Maurer read from a study of the technology’s use in Chicago – and raised long-standing concerns about its potential to infringe on civil liberties.
Councilwoman Jasmin Santana noted many of the issues being proposed for funding overlap. For example, housing insecurity often traps victims of domestic violence in the same home as their abuser because they have nowhere else to go, Santana said.
Domestic violence is an issue Santana said she understands on a “personal” level, saying she and her mother once took refuge in a domestic violence shelter, and that it may take years for survivors to unpack their trauma. That’s why, she argues, groups that support domestic violence need funding that lasts as long as ARPA allows.
“It wasn’t until recently that I was able to address the trauma of growing up in a house with domestic violence.”
Here is a list of the proposed programs that could be funded through ARPA, sorted from most to least expensive:
- $35 million to incentivize construction and renovation of affordable housing
- $16.4 million to renovate city hall, which will increase energy efficiency
- $10 million for a home repair fund
- $7.5 million toward a civic loan fund to support development in low-income areas
- $5.1 million to expand a pilot program connecting mental health services to law enforcement
- $5 million for a loan fund to bolster development in underserved neighborhoods
- $5 million to provide credit to minority owned construction firms
- $4.7 to fund programs that help survivors of domestic violence
- $3 million to fund arts projects and increase walkability, predominantly in minority areas
- $2.8 million to expand gunshot detection technology
- $2.7 million to provide bonuses to early childcare educators
- $2.3 million to add dashcams to Cleveland Police Department cars
- $1.9 million to subsidize childcare for vulnerable families
- $1 million to provide legal services for Cleveland residents dealing with housing issues
- $300,000 to give cash rewards to residents who get the COVID vaccine
Original story published on cleveland.com: Mayor Justin Bibb proposes spending $50 million on ‘housing for all’ in Cleveland