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A Better Way of Making Law: Putting Everyday Expertise at the Center

Everyday Experts Improve and Support Recent Cincinnati City Council Ordinance

On Wednesday, Cincinnati City Council passed a first-of-its-kind law meant to lighten the financial burden of security deposits for tenants who are renting new apartments.

The theme of barriers to entry for safe, affordable housing has been consistent in the numerous conversations we have facilitated with residents over the last 18 months. For some, that barrier has to do with the upfront cost of having to pay both a full security deposit and first month’s rent all at once. (Learn more about our work around affordable housing in our “Stories of the Housing Crisis in Cincinnati” report.)

Thanks to the new law, tenants won’t necessarily need a large sum of cash to gain access to a new apartment. They will have options, including making monthly rental security payments, paying via an installment plan over six months, or paying a smaller upfront cost of no more than 50% of rent.

We’re incredibly excited about this new legislation...and we’re equally excited that we had an opportunity to engage everyday experts to help shape the law into something that they would want to (and did!) support.

(Pictured above: Bridgebuilder Kendra Davis speaks in front of City Council to support renter's choice.)

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld is familiar with our work in housing affordability, and when he reached out to us to ask to organize and facilitate a conversation with individuals who had struggled to pay their security deposit, we enthusiastically said yes. Their lived experience both validated the need for the law and helped inform and improve the form that it took.

The legislation that was presented to them became stronger and will end up helping more people thanks in part to their feedback and the ideas of those everyday experts.

In addition to sharing their ideas, many of the everyday experts (including Bridgebuilder Kendra Davis) helped convince the Enquirer Editorial Board of the need for this legislation, and shared their support during public hearings at City Hall. Everyday experts have critical voices when it comes to shaping and passing legislation, and this process helped them utilize their power.

When elected officials want to listen to and learn from the voices of everyday experts to improve legislation, it’s a win-win for everyone!

Both Channel 9- WCPO and Local 12- WKRC reported on the law and Cohear’s involvement.


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