Group says cutting Central Ohio housing gap could increase life expectancy, add jobs
By Kate Siefert
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — The Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio (AHACO), with its new report titled “Finding Home in the Heart of it All,” believes cutting the housing gap by half could benefit other aspects of Ohioans’ lives.
The report looks at the Columbus region’s job growth and mounting affordable housing needs.
Central Ohio is in need of additional housing. According to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, central Ohio is on track to exceed 3 million people by 2050.
In order to keep up, MORPC said 14,000 homes need to be built every year for the next ten years.
“The region is facing a sizable affordable housing challenge – one that resonates throughout our society,” AHACO’s board chair, Bob Bitzenhofer, said. “Prioritizing affordable housing cannot only ease the burden on Ohio’s residents, but also unlock substantial community progress. This is a call to action.”
The report in 2017 found that 54,000 Franklin County households were severely cost-burdened, meaning they were paying more than half their income towards housing.
That number dropped to 52,000 with the latest report, citing efforts by the City of Columbus and Franklin County to tame housing costs.
But one county is not enough.
The report estimates that 80,000 households in the 15-county central Ohio region now face this severe housing cost burden. That number could grow by 20,000 by 2040.
“Such extreme un-affordability forces families to make impossible choices between basic necessities, between food or medicine just to keep a roof over their heads,” Bitzenhofer said
AHACO calls on state and local leaders to:
— Build housing that is affordable to central Ohio’s workers and their families.
— Expand homeownership and tools to help current owners stay in their homes.
— Grow income mobility programs and supportive services to stabilize low-income neighbors.
— Support policymakers as they address our region’s mounting housing needs first.
Doing so, the report argues, would have positive effects on education, health, and the economy.
Estimated benefits include higher proficiency in reading and graduation rates, increased life expectancy, and job creation.
WSYX has interviewed dozens of Central Ohio residents who have struggled to find and maintain affordable housing.
One Columbus mom told WSYX that when her rent went up earlier this year, she feared she would not have a place to live.
“A $300 dollar increase? Where am I going to get that money from,” Columbus resident Latischa Collier said. “Either me and my kids are not going to have a place to live, or I am going to take the steps to buy a house.”
Collier, a mom of two, said her rent used to eat up half of her paycheck. This year, she began taking a home-buying course through the Columbus Urban League, paid off her credit cards, and made other sacrifices so she could save money and eventually purchase her first home.
“It’s a feeling of comfort”, Collier said. “Now I don’t have to worry about homelessness for me or my kids. Housing stability is a comfort and stress relief.”
Collier closed on her Columbus home on Oct. 13.
WSYX showed Council member Remy the results of a Twitter poll asking the Central Ohio community about affordable housing options in the region. An overwhelming response from voters was that there was not enough affordable housing. Remy said he was not surprised by the responses.
“Not at all,” Remy said. “I am not surprised. When you are one of the fastest growing cities, we know we need more housing of all types, and of course, affordable housing is paramount.”
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