Analysis: Ohioans spend half income on rent

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Make Room, a nationwide campaign giving voice to American renters, has released findings showing that nearly one in four renters living outside of Ohio’s largest metropolitan areas — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati — spend more than half their income on rent and utilities, highlighting the urgent need for lawmakers to address the state’s growing housing insecurity, not just in the largest metro areas, but across the state.

Of the 754,600 renter households living outside of Ohio’s three major metropolitan areas, more than 181,400, or 24 percent, spend more than half their household income on rent and utilities, a level that housing experts consider to be a “severe” burden. Another 152,900 renter households, or 20 percent, are moderately cost burdened, spending between 30 to 50 percent of their income on housing costs. All told, 44 percent of renter households outside of the state’s three major metro areas are severely or moderately financially burdened by the cost of rent and utilities.

“The rental housing crisis affects people everywhere — in rural, suburban and urban communities,” said Angela Boyd, managing director of Make Room. “Rent can be unaffordable to people even if Ohio’s rent prices aren’t high in comparison to other states. Low wages and the fact that rent growth is outpacing income growth have created a situation in which many families are working hard but can’t make ends meet.”

Experts generally advise renters to avoid paying more than 30 percent of their pretax income on housing costs, including rent and utilities. But rising rents and weak wage growth mean that a growing percentage of workers are paying more than the recommended 30 percent just to keep a roof over their heads — and in some cases far more.

Among individual workers with moderate to severe rent burdens in Ohio, the five most common industries held include office and administrative support, food service, transportation, production and building and grounds maintenance. Workers in some of these industries, such as food service and retail workers, must cope with the additional burden of inconsistent wages and unreliable hours. Uncertain paychecks make it even more difficult for renters to stay ahead of recurring housing costs or plan ahead for longer-term financial goals like saving for homeownership or paying down debt.

The current climate for renters in Ohio reflects a national trend. Across the country, 11.4 million families, or one in four U.S. renter households, spend at least half their income on rent, forcing them to choose between paying their rent and paying for groceries, medicine, childcare and other essentials.

“Far too many families continue to find themselves in a situation where despite working full time jobs, half or more of their income goes towards their rent. The rise of housing insecurity in Ohio and around the country is creating a barrier between families and their full potential while simultaneously putting a strain on local economies,” said Mark McDermott, vice president and Ohio market leader, Enterprise Community Partners Inc. “State and local leaders must take action to address this problem and increase the supply of affordable housing in order to ensure all families can provide their children with a stable home and a strong foundation to succeed.”

Expanding the supply of affordable homes is a crucial component to ending the rental housing crisis in Ohio and around the country. Protecting state and local funding sources and expanding the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit are just some of the measures that can help alleviate the strain on the current supply of affordable homes.

The most common industries in which Ohio’s severely and moderately burdened renters hold jobs are office and administrative support, which has 91,800 cost-burdened renter workers between the ages of 18 and 64; food service, 87,500; transportation, 68,400; production, 66,200; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, 49,800; cashiers, 36,300; personal care and service, including childcare, 34,100; construction and extraction, 31,600; nursing, psychiatric and home health aides, 29,900; education, training and library occupations, 29,400.

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Staff report