‘Affordable’ housing not affordable

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohioans need to earn at least $14.45 an hour in order to afford rent for a basic, two-bedroom apartment, according to a report jointly released recently by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.

Every year the Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization’s Out of Reach report includes the updated Housing Wage, which illustrates the gap between what renters earn and what rents actually cost in every county and metropolitan area in the U.S.

“Ohioans’ earnings have stagnated for years, but housing costs continue to rise. A single parent earning minimum wage would have to work 71 hours a week all year round to afford a two-bedroom apartment. And many low-wage jobs are part time with schedules that vary from week-to-week, so it’s not even possible to work that much,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “This explains why we’re seeing homelessness among working families.”

The Housing Wage is an estimate of the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a basic apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30 percent of income, the federal standard for housing affordability.

In Shelby County, a single parent earning minimum wage would have to work 66 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, to afford a two-bedroom apartment. The average cost of rent for such a dwelling here is $694 per month. The rent a minimum wage-earner could afford while working 40 hours per week is $421 per month. Even rent for a single room studio apartment in Shelby County averages $492 a month. To afford those and work 40 hours a week, a Shelby Countian would need to be paid $9.46 per hour for the studio, $13.35 for a two-bedroom.

In Auglaize County, the statistics are not much better. It would take 64 hours per week of work to pay for a two-bedroom apartment that averages $679 in rental costs there. What a minimum wage-earner could afford in rent is that same $421 per month. To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Auglaize County, a worker would have to make $13.06 per hour.

The report shows that even one-bedroom apartments in every county in Ohio are unaffordable for households surviving on the state minimum wage of $8.10 per hour. Fifty-five percent of minimum wage earners are at least 25 years old and typically have jobs in childcare, food services, hospitals and retail.

While housing costs fall most heavily on low-income Ohioans, increasing rents are also becoming burdensome for middle-income earners. The typical renter in Ohio earns $12.17 per hour, which is $2.28 per hour less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Ohio.

“The Out of Reach data reflect a grim reality across the nation. There is no place in the United States where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We as a nation must respond by investing in affordable housing for the lowest income households in America. The new national Housing Trust Fund is a critical solution, but it must be significantly expanded to address the need.”

“We see that we’re making steady progress toward eliminating homelessness among veterans because of a bipartisan agreement to invest significant resources to stop this national disgrace,” Faith said. “If we make a similar commitment to other vulnerable Ohioans, we eliminate homelessness for them too.”

COHHIO is calling for a significant expansion of the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which supports hundreds of anti-homelessness and affordable housing programs throughout the state.

“The Ohio Housing Trust Fund has been a lifeline for chronically underfunded programs that have served more than one million Ohioans experiencing homelessness during its 25-year history. Moreover, every dollar the trust fund invests in affordable housing development generates a nearly $15 return to the overall economy,” Faith said. “Substantially expanding the trust fund would put a real dent in homelessness, which would reduce state spending on health care, schools, jails and courts, and it would help grow Ohio’s economy,” he added.

Staff report

Sidney Daily News Localife Editor Patricia Ann Speelman contributed to this article.

Sidney Daily News Localife Editor Patricia Ann Speelman contributed to this article.