CORRECTION, April 1, 2022, 9:30 p.m.: The first table has been corrected after a data analysis error.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — While there are plenty of reasons why people relocate, one facing central Ohio and its hot housing market is affordability.

“I think it’s important to let people know that this is a real issue. It’s affecting those that work and make decent wages, but still just not enough,” said a single mother from Columbus who asked NBC4 not to identify her.

Her $1,395-a-month lease is almost up, she said, and she can’t find anything close to that price in the area with enough room for her family of four.

With “lower end” prices she said including $1,895, $1,950, even $2,095 per month, she’s leaving Columbus and moving to Lima, a “more affordable city with more affordable housing.”

“I work for a nonprofit, so I’m not wealthy or anything like that,” she said, “but you would think I could afford a decent home in a decent neighborhood with decent schools for my children,”

That Columbus mother’s story is not new to Shameikia Smith, vice president of housing programs at IMPACT Community Action, a Columbus nonprofit that works to get people into stable housing in Franklin County.

“Unfortunately, in our community, people cannot afford to live where they work,” she said, adding that IMPACT’s mission has become more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2019, IMPACT served 250 people,” she said. “And then in 2020 when the pandemic hit, we went from serving 100 people to over 25,000 people.”

A Pew Research survey from January found more than 6 in 10 Americans living in urban areas said the cost of housing is a major problem. Only 4 in 10 rural Americans said the same.

That housing crunch showed itself in an NBC4 Investigates analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 population estimates, released this month. Compared to 2020, data shows the seven Ohio counties that lost the most residents last year each contain one of the state’s largest cities:

Rank (of 88)Ohio countyLargest cityPop. change, ’20-’21
*U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Change between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021.

Doing the math, Franklin County lost 1 in 500 people last year, for example, and Cuyahoga nearly lost 1 in 100.

But while people are moving away from Ohio’s big cities, central Ohio is still growing. All six counties that border Franklin were among the top 10 Ohio counties for population gain last year:

Rank (of 88)Ohio countyPop. change, ’20-’21
*U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Change between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021.

“In many cases, there was a shift from larger, more populous counties to medium and smaller ones,” said a Census Bureau release.

Ohio State University economics professor Bruce Weinberg says the rising cost of living in Columbus is the result of the community’s prosperity.

“There’s the Intel development and so forth; It’s going to be bringing more activity,” he said. “So, I think in general, it’s probably the case that Columbus is going to become less affordable over time.”

There are ways to lessen the housing woes, Weinberg said, including building more housing or public transportation.

“I do think that’s going to be a force … that the city is going to have to contend with long-term as it wants to remain a livable place for people,” he said.