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Case Study: Housing

Sector: Housing
Client: The City of Columbus, Cincinnati “Housing Our Future” plan
The Challenge

Stable, affordable housing is the foundation of a thriving life, but remains sadly out of reach for many residents of Ohio’s cities. Black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by affordable housing shortages and discriminatory policies, including the legacy of decades of redlining, restrictive covenants, and highway construction. As demand and need for housing continue to drastically outstrip supply, increasing wealth inequality will only exacerbate the critical lack of safe, affordable housing. With a focus on how policymakers should pursue development that mitigates the risks of displacement while intentionally serving the needs of existing residents, Cohear has conducted extensive community engagement—both pro bono and with our client partners—to hear what the everyday experts want and need when it comes to housing.

The Conversation

Cohear used our Bridgebuilder network to tap into the voices that are often left out of conversations about housing: lower-income families and seniors, renters on fixed incomes, and people of color.


  • 20 community focus groups, 50+ qualitative interviews

  • 200+ everyday experts engaged to share their ideas for increasing housing equity in Cincinnati and Columbus

  • Everyday experts recruited to participate in the formation of the Housing Our Future regional plan, a collaborative planning effort of public and private housing stakeholders in Cincinnati and Hamilton County

“There is just not enough quality affordable housing. That’s our problem... It has gone down to nothing in the city.”

–Housing expert

“There needs to be affordable housing at various income levels. [Section 8] coming in would be the very lowest of low income, but there are still working class people that can’t afford to stay in the neighborhood.”

–Community member

These focus groups explored topics as diverse as displacement and gentrification, rental assistance, tenants’ rights, and fostering homeownership in the Black community. Everyday experts came ready to share practical solutions to the problems they face, including:

  • Creating citywide databases for affordable housing listings shared across agencies and nonprofits

  • Establishing dedicated ramps to homeownership for Black residents, including comprehensive education around the homebuying process and connections to Black realtors and lenders

  • Introducing anti-displacement requirements to new development projects to ensure existing residents of a neighborhood can remain in their community

  • Forming tenant advocacy groups to advocate for renters’ rights and protections

The Outcome

Cohear turned the everyday expert’s ideas into actionable, next-steps plans for our clients and partners. These steps led to real change in our communities, including:


  • Everyday expertise incorporated into Cincinnati’s Housing Our Future regional strategy report, the first unifying affordable housing plan in 30 years and the guiding document for the new City Council’s housing policy reform efforts.

  • $200,000 investment in eviction prevention and rental assistance from Bon Secours Mercy Health for residents in neighboring communities

  • Housing Education for All, a public information campaign in partnership with the City of Columbus designed to equip tenants and landlords with information about new renter protections in Columbus

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