Freestore to create affordable housing

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The Cincinnati Enquirer
By:  Mark Curnutte
November 7, 2012

OVER-THE-RHINE - In less than two weeks, the Freestore Foodbank will begin distributing holiday food to almost 13,000 families.

A line will form at the Freestore's Liberty Street distribution center and wrap around the block to Corwine Street, snaking past two vacant Walnut Street addresses - 1606 and 1608 - buildings owned by the Freestore that it hopes will be occupied with 12 low-income families by this time in 2013.

The Freestore has begun a $1.03 million rehab project that its president and chief executive, Kurt Reiber, says is designed to provide needed affordable housing in Over-the-Rhine.

"The bottom line is, with the redevelopment in Over-the-Rhine, a lot of affordable housing is being taken away or up-tiered beyond the income levels our clients can afford to pay," he said.

The Freestore bought the property in 2007 and had planned to demolish the buildings to create a driveway to its Customer Connection Center on Liberty Street, which recently underwent a $4.5 million improvement. The Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board rejected the plan.

"What we do (on Liberty Street) is provide food and wrap-around services to people, often including connections to housing," Reiber said. "Transportation is such a major obstacle to the people we serve, so we thought to put some affordable units right next door."

Residents of the new property will receive health, mental health and budget/credit counseling services and be part of a formal tenant organization.

The development is a first for the Freestore.

Income levels, racial composition and home ownership numbers have changed dramatically in the area of Over-the-Rhine south of Liberty Street as investment has driven business openings and new or renovated housing. They remain largely unchanged north of Liberty Street, though. Census Tracts 16 and 17, which extend east to west from Sycamore Street to Central Avenue into the Mohawk section, experienced just a 3.1 percent decrease in population from 2000 to 2010, from 3,070 to 2,975, but the percentage of African-American population increased from 83.9 percent to 84.4 percent, according to an analysis of 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data and estimates.

About 280 people a day receive food or other services at the Freestore location on Liberty Street, part of an annual increase of about 35 percent for Freestore system wide in the past several years. "A lot of these people are working poor," Reiber said. "If an emergency pops up medically or with a car repair, something has to give."

The housing project involves a $481,950 Affordable Housing Program grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, a $300,000 grant from the city funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $249,000 from the Freestore in property acquisition costs.

Key Bank is a partner in the project and is providing the construction loan.

The Walnut Street units will be required, through terms of the financing and grants, to remain affordable housing for 15 years, meaning a household pays no more than 30 percent of its annual income in rent.

Changing face of Over-the-Rhine

The Freestore Foodbank's rehab project of 12 affordable housing units at 1606 and 1608 Walnut St. are north of the focus area of redevelopment sweeping the neighborhood south of Liberty.

South of Liberty Street, the defined 110-square-block focus of redevelopment is inside Census Tracts 9 and 10. Together, the tracts saw a significant decrease in overall population, much of it ages 0-19. The overall population of those tracts fell 39.1 percent from 3,427 in 2000 to 2,089 in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The number of people ages 0-19 decreased from 894 to 510, a 43 percent loss.

Tract 9

Boundaries: From Central Avenue east to Vine Street and from Liberty Street south to Central Parkway. Washington Park sits wholly in Tract 9, and it has been a particular focus of change driven by the public-private agency Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC).

Household income: Since 2000, the percentage of households earning $50,000 or more has increased from 4.9 percent to 28.6 percent, according to 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data and estimates. In that same time frame, the number of owner-occupied housing units increased from 13 (1.4 percent) to 74 (15.3 percent).

Racial composition: The number of African-Americans has decreased from 1,469 (71 percent) to 1,059 (64.1 percent). Whites now make up a third of the tract's population, though the number of white residents in Tract 9 increased from 505 to 539.

Tract 10

Boundaries: East from Vine Street to include Main Street

Household income: The number of households earning $50,000 or more increased from 14.8 percent to 29.7 percent, while the number of owner-occupied housing units jumped from 24 (3.3 percent) to 123 (15.8 percent).

Racial composition: The number of African-Americans decreased from 921 to 791 (67.9 percent to 55 percent), and the white population increased from 384 to 578 (28.3 percent to 40.2 percent).

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This page contains a single entry by CFED published on November 8, 2012 4:05 PM.

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