COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohioans must earn on average $19 an hour – nearly double the state’s minimum wage – to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment, according to a new report.
The annual Out of Reach Ohio report, released Wednesday by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), found that full-time workers need to make at least $19.09 an hour to afford rent at a modest, two-bedroom apartment. That number, up by $2 from last year, has prompted affordable housing advocates to call on the Ohio Legislature for help.
“The McDonald’s may be paying a little bit more now; the Target may be paying a little bit more now … but those increases are not keeping pace with the rising rent costs that we see month over month,” COHHIO executive Amy Riegel said at a news conference Wednesday.
Of the 10 occupations with the most workers in Ohio, only three – tractor-trailer truck driver, registered nurse and general operations manager – earn a median hourly wage that surpasses the average $19.09 needed to rent a two-bedroom, the report found, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The housing wage, an estimate of what full-time workers need to afford a two-bedroom without spending more than 30% of their income, was highest in Union County at $22.79 an hour, according to the report. Urban areas like Columbus, Cincinnati and Akron have similarly high rates.
But it’s not isolated to large communities, Riegel said. In Athens County, a resident earning $9.38 an hour – the average renter wage in the area – would have to work two full-time jobs to afford the going-rate of a two-bedroom rental: $926 a month, the report found.
“Ohio is at a crossroad,” she said.
The housing market is especially tight in areas booming with development, like Fayette County where construction on Honda and LG Energy’s $4.4 billion electric vehicle battery plant – poised to bring nearly 2,200 jobs to the region – is underway.
Steve Creed, who directs the Community Action Agency’s housing program in Fayette County, said he gets calls every day from residents looking for a rental. Local landlords are selling their properties to developers for huge profits, he said, as they’re left with little incentive to opt into affordable housing programs.
“I spoke to a lady the other day because her landlord decided he was going to sell the house,” Creed said. “The best she could find was a 2-bedroom apartment for $1,200 a month here locally, so it’s been tough for these folks.”
The rising gap between rental prices and wages leaves more Ohioans without a roof over their head, Riegel said. In Columbus, specifically, the Community Shelter Board said it identified more than 2,300 people experiencing homelessness during its January point-in-time count – a 22% rise from last year.
That’s why advocates, including 277 grassroots groups across the state, signed a COHHIO-authored letter addressed to elected officials to beg them – particularly members of the Ohio Senate – to allocate more dollars toward securing safe, affordable homes.
Unlike the budget proposals offered by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio House, Riegel said the Senate’s version marked an “all-out assault” on affordable and rental housing across the state. It stripped funding for pregnant women in need of rental assistance, tenants trying to build credit, and tax credits for affordable housing.
The Senate’s budget also eliminated the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, a state agency that’s key to fighting the shortage of affordable housing units, said Samantha Shuler, CEO of the Columbus-based Community Housing Network.
Instead, it would shift the agency’s responsibilities under a newly-created Office of Housing Transformation – a department whose system is not yet clear, Shuler said.
“At the time all the data says affordable housing, we’re going backwards on this bill,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted to restore some affordable housing provisions in its latest budget version, including a tax credit program for low-income housing and dollars toward constructing more units. DeWine must sign a finalized budget by June 30.