COLUMBUS — More than 300 Ohio companies and nonprofit organizations announced their support Wednesday for a plan to bolster the Ohio Housing Trust Fund in the upcoming state budget.
The Home Matters to Ohio campaign is promoting an expansion of the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which is the primary source of state funding for homeless and affordable housing in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Supporters include Fifth Third Bank, Sisters of Charity Health System, PNC Bank, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Huntington Bank, Mount Carmel Health System, Ohio Association of Realtors, Ohio Federation of Teachers and hundreds of other organizations from the housing, community development, and human services sectors. The campaign is seeking a $15 million a year increase in state general revenue for the Trust Fund.
“Fifth Third Bank recognizes that safe, decent, affordable housing is a fundamental building block for healthy families, and we’ve seen how the Ohio Housing Trust Fund helps make home a reality for thousands of vulnerable Ohioans,” said Stefanie Steward-Young, senior vice president of community and economic development for Fifth Third Bank. “At the same time, each dollar the trust fund invests in housing development leverages an additional $8 in private and federal matching funds for Ohio’s economy.”
“As an investor in affordable housing in the markets we serve, we’ve seen that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund is often a critical piece of the puzzle that forms these development deals,” said Michael Taylor, senior vice president, West Territory manager for Community Development Banking at PNC Bank. “PNC supports Home Matters to Ohio because we know that a stronger Trust Fund means more affordable housing, which means stronger families and a stronger economy for all of us in Ohio.”
Rents have increased steadily to the point where half of Ohio’s 1.5 million renter households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs — the amount at which a family is considered “housing insecure.” According to the National Low-Income Home Coalition, one-bedroom apartments in every county of Ohio are unaffordable to people working full-time at the state minimum wage.
The Home Matters to Ohio campaign is drawing support from organizations outside the traditional housing and community development sectors. Research has increasingly shown how safe and affordable homes can help improve health care, education, child welfare, the economy, public safety and other public policy problems facing the state.
“Housing is an essential foundation for health and well-being, and a critical element of the social determinants of health,” said Thomas Strauss, CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System. “In our own health system within our health care services, it is far too common to witness how homelessness and housing insecurity have been linked to serious chronic conditions. The trust fund can help our patients and those we serve find housing and, as a result, help our interventions become more effective and enduring.”
“Decent, secure and affordable housing is often compared to a vaccine for many of the health issues that afflict the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Angela Mingo, community relations director for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. “Housing insecurity greatly increases the risk of infant mortality and has been linked to serious health issues, like asthma and lead poisoning in children. Expanding the Ohio Housing Trust Fund will mean more children have a safer, healthier, more stable place to grow up.”
Elderly Ohioans also face significant challenges maintaining accessible and affordable housing. In addition to funding senior affordable housing development and renovation, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund supports local home repair and accessibility programs for seniors and people with disabilities throughout the state.
“Area agencies on aging use trust fund dollars to make seniors’ homes safe and accessible so they can age in place. Our local home repair efforts can save the state money by keeping seniors in their own homes and out of costly nursing facilities,” said Larke Recchie, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging. “The Ohio Housing Trust Fund helps make home a reality for Ohio seniors who are struggling to get by on a fixed income.”
Due largely to cooperation between providers, more effective housing strategies and a modest increase in federal funding, homelessness in Ohio dropped 20 percent in the last five years. Jessica Jenkins, Montgomery County’s assistant director of human services planning and development, said the Ohio Housing Trust Fund’s support for local homeless agencies was a critical factor that enabled her community to effectively end veteran homelessness last year.
“City and county officials worked with the Dayton VA Medical Center to improve our region’s data sharing, resource coordination and outreach. Now we can get homeless veterans under a roof within hours and on the road to a permanent housing solution,” Jenkins said. “Montgomery County is a great example. We have the tools, and we’re using the right strategies to solve this problem. With additional funding from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, these solutions could be replicated across the state.”
Since 1992, the trust fund has assisted more than 1.8 million Ohioans struggling with homelessness and housing insecurity, according to new data released by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. At the same time, the trust fund benefits the economy, creating $589 million a year in economic activity.
The Home Matters to Ohio campaign was organized by several Ohio-based nonprofits, including the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio; Enterprise Community Partners; Habitat for Humanity Ohio; Ohio CDC Association; National Church Residences; NeighborWorks Collaborative of Ohio; Finance Fund; Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing; Homeport; WSOS Community Action and LISC.