It’s been more than six months since the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law, but in many places the work of delivering on its promise is only just beginning.

The historic $1.9 trillion package included $350 billion for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds – allocations to state and local government to respond, stabilize and recover from the pandemic as well as address budget shortfalls – but many governments tasked with these critical spending decisions have yet to come to agreement on what an equitable recovery might look like.

What’s most exciting about these allocations is the flexibility in eligible uses. That latitude provides a rare opportunity to not just respond to the pandemic but, for those willing to step up to the moment, to finally address and undo some of the systemic barriers that for too long have put communities of color in the line of fire at the turn of every public health, economic and climate crisis.

Our State and Local Policy team is working with local decisionmakers and elected officials to help them think beyond crisis response and begin laying out a pathway to equitable recovery – one which not only targets our most vulnerable residents, but also builds resilient communities.

In Ohio, we are advocating at State, Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland levels for how they will spend their respective $5 billion, $200+ million, and $511 million in state and local government allocations.

State of Ohio Recommendations

Enterprise Ohio is a proud member of the Housing and Community Coalition – a new, unprecedented collaboration of leaders.

Coalition members represent housing development, homelessness services and community and economic development who came together to collectively advocate for investments for Ohio’s hardest hit communities and most vulnerable families.

This Coalition has seen firsthand how the pandemic disproportionately impacted the health and economic wellbeing of communities that were still struggling to overcome the effects of the Great Recession - overwhelmingly low-income and often communities of color. The Coalition has two main requests:

Ohio Housing Trust Fund

The Coalition is calling for a significant investment in the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

The fund would enable local nonprofits to maintain and repair more homes for seniors and people with disabilities, increase development and preservation of affordable housing and prevent and end homelessness.

The Ohio Housing Trust Fund is the State’s primary and most significant resource for boosting the supply of safe, decent, affordable housing.

Rebuilding Ohio’s Communities

The Coalition is also calling for an investment into existing and new community economic development programs to:

  • Empower Ohio’s families through: housing, job creation, financial stability and food security.
  • Fortify Ohio’s small businesses and Main Streets.
  • Ensure recovery is equitable across the state and within communities.

These people and placed-based investments include Healthy Food for Ohio, the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, the Main Street Job Recovery Program and the Targeted Neighborhood Homeownership Development.

City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Recommendations

Locally, Enterprise Ohio is again working in Coalition alongside Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, CHN Housing Partners, and more.

Together, we submitted recommendations to both the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County in the spirit of cross-governmental coordination. Our recommendations leverage our collective expertise in housing, community, and economic development and include:

Access to Capital

  • Capitalization of First Mortgages: An investment in a local first mortgage funds would address key issues that act as barriers for people to get a traditional mortgage loan.
  • Home Repair Grant Program for Homeowners and Landlords: Cuyahoga County’s housing stock is aging, and these funds would allow for both emergency and non-emergency home repairs.
  • Loan Loss Reserve for Home Repair Loans: This program would provide home repair loans to Cuyahoga County residents whose homes are underwater in value, making it difficult to borrow against the market value of their property.
  • Lead Remediation Grants for Homeowners and Landlords: Lead-based paint is the primary causes of lead poisoning in Ohio’s children and healthy housing is the solution. Investing in the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Lead Safe Home Fund would support lead safe home repairs. 

Affordable Housing Supply

  • Multifamily Gap Financing and Preservation: A joint city-county Program could increase and preserve the supply of affordable rental housing for all income groups and facilitate revitalization through strategic investments in deteriorated properties.
  • Appraisal Gap Financing for Middle Neighborhoods: This Cleveland program could be replicated at the County level and provide subsidies to a limited number of projects that produce quality housing and establish higher market values for new or renovated housing in the surrounding neighborhood.

Tenant and Landlord Stabilization

  • Dynamic Tenant Assistance Program: Cuyahoga County must maintain a range of rental, utility and financial assistance programs that can be scaled up during a crisis while meeting the unique needs of each household.
  • Housing Choice Incentives: Local governments should be strategic with new housing vouchers made available under ARPA to ensure tenants can access opportunity and live in the community of their choice, and landlords can easily participate in the program.

Taken together, these state and local investments would build a bridge toward economic recovery, make long-overdue investments in racial justice and address some of the State’s most pressing unmet housing and community development needs.