The Port’s Pathway to Affordable Homeownership Progresses, One Buyer at a Time

Photograph of Shiobanne Parra and Diego Raxuleu after they closed on their home.
Photograph of Shiobanne Parra and Diego Raxuleu after they closed on their home.

Being Outbid with a Tight Budget

According to the real estate market company, Zillow, the housing market in Cincinnati is very competitive. Low inventory and the relative affordability of Midwest housing creates challenges for aspiring homeowners looking for an affordable home.

Shiobanne Parra and Diego Raxuleu are a married Cincinnati couple looking to move their family of four from their rental apartment to a home they own. From 2020 to 2024 they looked at approximately 20 homes in the Cincinnati area, including Springdale, North College Hill, Delhi Township, Greenhills, and some downtown neighborhoods. Each time they were outbid.

“I didn’t expect so many people out there for the same home,” said Parra. In a highly competitive market Parra and Raxuleu had trouble competing with better offers.

In 2023 the couple met Rachel Thompson, a real estate agent with 3CRE Residential Advisors and a Realtist with the Greater Cincinnati Realtist Association. The Realtist is a national association with local offices. They work to create equitable housing opportunities for the unserved and underserved members of our community.

Thompson explained how the increase in interest rates gave Parra and Raxuleu an even tighter window to find a home. As interest rates went up, houses became less affordable. “So maybe one month, we can afford $195 [thousand] and the payment feels comfortable. Interest rates went up a point and now they’re down to 175 [thousand]. And then houses that were $175 [thousand] are not livable or they need $30,000 for a renovation.”

Parra and Raxuleu needed to find a home that would accommodate their growing family. “The kids want different rooms. And you want to make your home comfortable for you and your kids,” said Diego. Although they didn’t give up on finding a house, the married couple were fatigued with the process of being outbid for a home they could afford.

The Port Opportunity

In 2022, The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority purchased 194 homes from a Los Angeles based developer called Raineth Housing for $15 million. The Port outbid 13 other investors and financed the acquisition with taxable and tax-exempt bonds. These properties were often unkept by the developer; some were left vacant and needed many repairs. Often the rents would increase in these areas and be a cost burden for the renters. The Port’s mission in purchasing these homes is to give the opportunity for the current tenants to become homeowners, renovate the occupied and vacant properties, and create more homeownership in the area.

Thompson was able to find Parra and Raxuleu a Port home that they closed on in February of 2024. Unlike previous attempts they didn’t have to compete to purchase the home. “I was really excited about it because I knew I didn’t have to give another offer.” said Shiobanne. “I know it [the mortgage] is based off of your income.”

The Port is giving couples such as Parra and Raxuleu an opportunity to find a sufficiently renovated home that meets their budget. Thompson expressed that “That is why this Port property was a godsend.” Before they closed on their home, through inspection, Parra and Raxuleu had repair requests and “The Port was more than happy to work with all of our requests.” said Thompson “We want to put them in the best position possible. We don’t want to give them a $10,000 repair.”

When the Port purchased the properties, they were only able to see a small percentage of the homes and therefore underestimated the total cost of repair. Andrew Fischer, Senior Construction Associate of the Port shared that there were essential elements that needed to be addressed.

“There were homes that had severe foundation issues– homes that had plumbing and mechanical and electrical systems that had never been brought up to code or any reasonable standard. We were really hoping to produce a great quality house in a quick time and get it back on the market, but we really found out that we had to take a step back, reassess how we’re going to prepare these homes for future sellers,” said Fischer.

The number of repairs needed on these Port properties, in general, prolonged the timeline of these homes. Ella Carre, a retired nursing aid and army vet, is experiencing this wait. She qualified to get one of the Port homes but the home that she is interested in is still not on the market as of mid-March 2024. She originally expected to move into the home in July of 2023. “I’ve been waiting for a while…,” said Carre. “I’ve been going by the house I want, and I see progress being made.” Carre explained that there have been new improvements such as an HVAC unit and repairs to the garage. “I know they are working on it. My realtor is in touch with them, and he told me he is still waiting to hear from them,” said Carre.

Carre was able to qualify for The Port because she went through programming by the non-profit organization, WIN (Working in Neighborhoods). It is partnering with The Port to help aspiring homeowners find homes that fit their desires. Sr. Barbara Busch is the Executive Director of WIN and shares that the work ahead of the Port is challenging but necessary in the community.

“Learning how to rehab a whole chunk of buildings that they weren’t expecting to rehab, you know, is difficult. The Port intends to bring these homes back into homeownership, which if you’re building the city, you want that to happen. There is still good quality housing stock that if you could get them rehabbed and sold back, I think it would be a real asset to all of us.” said Sr. Busch”

Sr. Busch says she would like The Port to continue purchasing homes and revitalizing them to increase homeownership and help stabilize the housing market in Cincinnati.

Here are some before and after pictures on The Port’s CARE Homes website.

Current Numbers and Requirements

As of March of 2024, out of the 194 purchased by the Port; 110 are still renter-occupied, 71 are vacant, 33 homes have completed renovations and more than 13 homes have been sold.

Qualifications

The amount a potential homebuyer will spend on a Port home is based upon income. Once qualified, the requirements include staying in the home for at least five years, not renting or leasing out the house during the duration of those five years and adhering to the deed requirements, which you review on the attached PDF.

The Port Deed Agreement


Hernz Laguerre Jr. – Multi-Media Journalist

Hernz is a Haitian American who was born and raised in Spring Valley, NY. He attended school at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he learned to hone his skills as a storyteller. After graduating with his Bachelors in Broadcast and Digital Journalism and his Masters in Television Radio and Film, he went on to a career in media as a producer, reporter and freelance videographer for companies like ESPN and Court TV. He eventually moved to Detroit, where he worked as a Multimedia Journalist for The Detroit News and then the NPR affiliate, WDET, before starting his work with the Brick by Brick team at CET and ThinkTV. Hernz aims to produce stories that tell the bigger picture while doing his due diligence to educate and inform the public about the solutions-focused work being done in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.