COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – On Tuesday community leaders gathered to talk about the affordable housing gap in central Ohio. It’s something they said will only increase unless we act on it now.

The Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio conducted a multi-year study which found that many people in central Ohio struggle with housing instability.

Affordable housing can positively or negatively impact education, health, job performance and overall well-being.

The study showed more than 80,000 households in central Ohio pay more than half of their income toward housing. It’s something members of the Affordable Housing Alliance want to change.

“If we cut the housing gap in half, we will get healthier, our schools will get stronger and our economy will grow and we can have one of the most equitable and prosperous regions in the country,” said Carlie Boos, Executive Director of the Affordable Housing Alliance.

Sixth grade intervention specialist Cara Jeffers said she is worried her students at Canal Winchester Middle School won’t be ready for future jobs because of their housing instability.

“You actually have to be able to read at a fourth grade level to sustain a low-level job, and if these students are not bridging the gaps in between their academics it is going to be challenging for them to have a job in the future,” said Jeffers.

Jeffers said many of her students read at a first grade level and a lot of it has to do with their housing situations.

Boos with the Housing Alliance said this is a reality for many families, and as central Ohio’s population grows the issue needs to be addressed.

“Franklin County absolutely has the tools to do this. This is not a runaway train, this is not a hail mary pass. This is absolutely within our reach. The only thing that we need to do is say we want it and begin moving towards that end zone,” Boos said.

The study released is scientific, not a policy framework, but Boos said the findings show if community members work toward a common goal affordable housing for everyone is possible.

She urged central Ohioans to work with elected officials, attend meetings on housing and join in on the discussion.

“This is a root issue. Housing is the core of our society. By addressing housing, we affect the entire community in a great way,” Boos said.

To read the study from the Affordable Housing Alliance of central Ohio, learn about the plan of action and see how to get involved, click here.