Fair housing organization names Cincinnati native executive director

The nonprofit responsible for promoting equal housing opportunities in Greater Cincinnati has a new leader.

Housing Opportunities Made Equal will introduce Elisabeth Risch as its new executive director at its annual fair-housing luncheon on April 13. She began her role April 11, the 54th anniversary of the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“This is an ideal and unique opportunity to continue working in the fair housing field for which I have so much passion and depth of experience in a city I know and love,” said Risch. “With Cincinnati’s increased focus on affordable housing and momentum of collaborative efforts, I see a tremendous opportunity to build upon the vision and leadership that already exists at HOME.”

Elisabeth Risch

Risch, 35, is a Cincinnati native with over 12 years of leadership and expertise in fair housing at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. Most recently, she’s been the assistant director, managing fair housing and eviction defense programs and overseeing all operations.

She led the agency’s fair housing education, outreach and advocacy work, including leading systemic investigations of housing discrimination and authoring widely circulated reports on issues of fair housing and segregation. 

“After a national search, we are delighted to find someone with an extensive background in fair housing who also has a connection to the Greater Cincinnati area,” said Robert L. Hall, HOME’s board president.

A nationally-recognized expert in fair lending and redlining, Risch helped found and led the St. Louis Community Reinvestment Alliance, a coalition working to hold banks accountable to investing in low income communities and communities of color, resulting in community benefits agreements with banks that developed new products, services and investments totaling over $5 billion in impact.

She is currently on the board of directors for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Risch has a bachelor’s in sociology and international development studies from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis’ Brown School of Social Work, where she concentrated on policy and social and economic development. She grew up in the College Hill neighborhood and is a graduate of Cincinnati Public Schools.

Risch succeeds Jeniece Jones, who in January became the new executive director of the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center – a local and national leader in public interest law reform that uses legal advocacy to pursue social justice, economic and race equity, and fundamental human rights for people who are struggling to provide for their basic needs.

At the fair-housing luncheon, Gina Ruffin Moore, author of “Cincinnati: The Black America Series,” will speak. There will also be a presentation to the winner of the Charles Judd founder’s award and fair housing poster contest. 

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act. The act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.

Initially, the act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. Later, the act’s protections were expanded to include discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, and familial status. In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development clarified that the act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

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