Dear Mayor Jackson and County Executive Fitzgerald:
We are writing to urge the City of Cleveland to develop an affordable housing plan similar to the one released by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. The Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan1 intends to lower income inequality by making new housing units available to more households with lower incomes (under about $25,000 a year). Specifically, the plan consists of investing $41 billion for 200,000 units of new and preserved housing. At a Brooklyn meeting, De Blasio insisted that, “in a progress city, everyone should have the opportunity for affordable housing, and that’s what this plan sets out to achieve”. Indeed, advocates for affordable housing certainly see this plan as worthy of admiration and imitation.
Housing New York streamlines regulations and processes in hopes of opening up new development opportunities, containing costs, and speeding up affordable housing construction. De Blasio also means to double the capital budget, target vacant and underused land, and protect tenants in rent-regulated apartments. Certainly, these goals make Housing New York the largest and most ambitious affordability plan of its kind in our nation’s history, but if the plan is successful, the 200,000 units of housing will be enough to serve more than a half-million people in New York City. That said, we believe that Cleveland should try to put together a similar plan called Housing Cleveland in the next few months. As Mayor de Blasio demonstrated, the proposal for a housing plan of this scale need not be a lengthy procedure. After only 5 months in office, de Blasio announces a plan that tackles affordable housing issues quickly and aggressively, and there is no reason why Cleveland cannot do the same.
In Cleveland, there is a rising number of fair housing complaints combined with an inadequate supply of housing that meet basic requirements. We have talked about a funding source in the creation of a Local Housing Trust Fund, but it has not happened. There are waiting lists of 19,000 for public housing, 6,000 for voucher programs, and 64,000 people applied for housing in 2011 when Section 8 was opened. 22,000 people are homeless and a growing number of homeless families are attempting to find shelter every night. There were 30 families sleeping in the overflow shelter in Cleveland last week, because we did not have space. Also and unfortunately, Cleveland did not receive any of the state tax incentives to build housing in the competition announced last month, which means a year of not developing any affordable housing. We also see repeated cuts to housing and homeless programs with Sequestration and other budget austerity programs resulting in the closing of shelters, elimination of rental assistance, and reductions in staffing for housing and homeless programs.
Observing these numerous issues at hand, we must suggest that it is urgent for the City of Cleveland to follow in New York City’s footsteps. We must step up our efforts to build and preserve affordable housing, and so we ask you, as the Mayor of this progressive community, to please consider pushing for a Cleveland Housing Plan. I am sure that we have the talent within the administration or with our non-profit partners to develop a Cleveland Housing Plan by the beginning of 2015.
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