Cornerstone Renter Equity was established as a loan fund in 1986. This fund borrowed from organizations and philanthropists who wanted to invest in socially responsible projects, like affordable housing.
In the late-90’s the Board of Directors wished for the organization to have a greater impact. Out of this desire to be more came Renter Equity, a program developed in 2000 by Margery Spinney in collaboration with other thought leaders, including Peter Block.
In 2000, the community of Over-the-Rhine where we are located was very different than it is today. There were people looking to leave the neighborhood, seeking more from their community. Renter Equity sought to address this. Margery sent out postcards to residents in Over-the-Rhine asking if they wanted to be part of an affordable housing community that cleaned up after itself, and in turn, reinvested in its residents. Twenty-two future residents responded to the postcard with intent, and they formed the first community.
The first community, Saint Anthony Village (SAV) broke ground in collaboration with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing (OTRCH). While the construction was underway, the SAV Community Members proceeded to meet. They discussed what they wanted their community to be, to look like, and how they wished to participate. Members selected tasks that they would do to participate in the community. They agreed to meet monthly to discuss the property management. This was finalized by the completion of the project in 2001.
Pictured: Saint Anthony Village. A gated community in Over-the-Rhine offered security, as well as a sense of ownership in the property, and a place that was home.
Community members moved in and, for paying their rent on time, attending a monthly community meeting, and completing their weekly task, earned Renter Equity credits monthly on an accrual basis, up to $4,100 that vested in 5 years and $10,000 that vested in 10 years.
In 2006, again in partnership with OTRCH, the second Renter Equity affordable housing community, Community Views, came online. This property operated in the same manner as SAV, but was a scattered-site, 12-unit project.
In 2012, Cornerstone Renter Equity embarked on a 25-unit Renter Equity affordable housing community as the property manager and developer. This community was named Friar’s Court, after much of the property was donated to the project by The Friars of St. Francis Seraph Church.
In 2016, following the expansion of Renter Equity, and the pending development of another 50 units of Renter Equity affordable housing, the model required some review. Participation in the program had fallen, and the program still existed in the same form that it had the last 15 years. After multiple focus groups, talking with community members, and learning from them what they desired their community to be, we made some changes.
We added community meetings and allowed for make-up meetings, whereas before, some members were having to miss out on earning Renter Equity each month because the community meetings conflicted with their work schedule.
Following the leadership of Bob Maly, Renter Equity began to evolve into a more comprehensive, family-centered service organization. We added a tracking system to measure impact, and we set a goal that aligned with the City of Cincinnati’s goal to substantially reduce poverty in our community.
In 2019, we launched a pilot project that enlisted Family Coaching as the vehicle for Renter Equity. Members focused on their personal goals, and earned Renter Equity based on work with their Family Coach. This pilot proved to be successful, with members increasing their income, making significant strides toward their financial and personal goals, and their overall health.
At the conclusion of the pilot, we made some adjustments and are rolling Family Coaching out to all members in 2020 under the leadership of Alisa Berry.