March 2023

Our view: Columbus’ housing market not cutting it. We must all open our eyes to crisis

Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board | March 20th, 2023

It is easy to disregard a number. It is considerably harder to ignore people.

As illustrated by two recent incidents, the affordable housing crisis is having a costly impact on real people in plain sight. Central Ohio can no longer afford to avert its eyes if it ever could.

The harshness of the crisis was on full display on Christmas Day at Latitude Five25, a complex¬†¬†listed as “the affordable, amenity-filled city living you have been craving!”

Ginther:‘Inaction is not an option.’ If housing not addressed, market will destabilize, homelessness will increase

The city of Columbus deemed more than 150 units in the complex formerly known as Sawyer Tower unsafe for those who called them home due to lack of heat, electricity, burst pipes and nonworking elevators.

The crisis played out again in the pages of the Columbus Dispatch this month when 61 families were told they had to leave their homes in the Morse Glen apartments owned by Connecticut-based Hamilton Point Investments.

Their infraction: using federal Section 8 housing vouchers to pay rent.

According to Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s office,¬†Hamilton Point Investments’¬†policy violates a 2021 city criminal ordinance that prohibits landlords from discriminating based on tenants‚Äô source of income.

The company which touts “affordable apartment(s) for rent in Columbus” on its website backpaddled after the Dispatch’s reporting prompted a letter from Klein’s office.

Hamilton Point¬†sent letters to tenants informing them that they can continue using the vouchers which “increases affordable housing choices for very low-income households by allowing families to choose privately owned rental housing.

What the numbers say about the need

People of all economic statuses must have a place to live in the Columbus region as it and the city continue to grow.

And grow it will.

A projection released in February from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission says the 15-county region is now on track to exceed 3 million people by 2050.

Growth over the next 25 years is expected to include 272,000 additional households and 357,700 more workers.

The city of Columbus grew by 15% between 2010 and 2020 to 905,748 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

A 2022 report funded by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio concluded that Greater Columbus needs to double the number of homes it constructs over the next decade to meet demand from 8,000 to 9,000 a year to 14,000 to 19,000 a year.

Affordable housing options are shrinking in Columbus. Creating and encouraging them must be a priority.

According to Michael Wilkos, the United Way of Central Ohio’s senior vice president of community impact, price hikes in the three years before COVID saw the metro area lose 19,469 affordable apartments that rented for less than $899 a month.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment jumped from $831 in 2016 to $1,295 in 2022.

That’s a 56% increase.

At a recent BREAD organization forum on housing, Victoria “Tori” Bourret¬†of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are only 43 affordable and available rentals in Ohio for every 100 extremely low-income renters whose households make less than $30,000 a year.

Low-income people cannot afford to pay the two-bedroom fair market apartment rental rate of $1,032 in Columbus and pay for other living expenses, Bourret said.

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