Work is continuing on creating a housing court in Hamilton County. That's according to an attorney who works for the Cincinnati City Solicitor.
The goal is for it be operating by the fall if Ohio lawmakers approve the necessary legislation.
Some city council members had suggested pausing work on the plan because they were concerned it could create a burden on owner-occupants who may not be able to afford necessary home repairs to avoid housing court.
But that delay will not happen.
That's good news for Wendy O'Neal, who is a member of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.
"We cannot afford to delay and our most vulnerable deserve better," O'Neal said.
Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation Executive Director Sara Sheets also wants the housing court to move forward.
"Instead of pausing the progress that has been made to date, let's work together toward getting the housing court established while addressing all of our concerns," Sheets said.
The housing court would hear all cases involving property conditions, maintenance by landlords, and urban blight on a full-time basis. Right now, there is only a part-time housing docket in Hamilton County Municipal Court.
Council Member Yvette Simpson was one of those concerned the housing court could target owner-occupants.
"Because they can't make simple repairs and don't have the wherewithal to represent themselves in court," Simpson said. "(They) end up with charges because of the fact that they can't afford an attorney and they have to go to housing court," Simpson said.
Work on the housing court will continue and city administrators will prepare a report recommending ways to protect individual property owners.
Mayor John Cranley made a rare appearance at a committee meeting to speak against stopping the work.
"It's insulting to the many of us who have been working on this for a long time," Cranley said. "To think that we weren't concerned about owner occupants, it seems to be a knee-jerk response to a non-existent issue."
Cranley is seeking re-election this year as mayor and Council Member Simpson is one of his challengers.
Cranley, in his State of the City address in October, said having a housing court in Hamilton County had been caught up in political mistrust between the city and the county. Cranley said he worked to change that; and that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters had agreed to petition the Ohio Supreme Court to create a Hamilton County Housing Court.
Three other major Ohio urban counties – Franklin (Columbus), Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Lucas (Toledo) – already have similar full-time housing courts.
WVXU's Howard Wilkinson contributed to this story.