New Report Sheds Light on Local Affordable Housing Challenge

The Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio (AHACO) has released an in-depth report that documents and illuminates the affordable housing challenge facing Columbus and Franklin County.

The report finds that 54,000 of the county’s lowest-income residents pay more than half their income for housing. There is only one affordable rental housing unit for every three renters in poverty.

In 2016, a 16-member committee, chaired by Roberta Garber, with support from the Greater Ohio Policy Center, studied local affordable housing needs and resources and identified effective strategies implemented in other cities to expand affordable housing opportunities.

These notable findings reveal a multi-dimensional challenge:

  • Affordable housing needs are growing fastest among persons in poverty and seniors
  • Rents are increasing at twice the pace of incomes
  • Places that working people can afford to live are often located far from where jobs are being created
  • More than 18,000 evictions were recorded in 2015
  • Families using the shelter system went up 64% compared to 2011

How communities fund affordable housingThe report examines a range of funding mechanisms used by other cities to generate local affordable housing resources. In-depth case studies show how these methods could be applied or expanded locally for rental assistance, eviction prevention, home repair and modification, and new construction. 

Creating a stable foundation for the entire communityMembers of the Housing Alliance are meeting with policy makers, stakeholders, and business leaders to discuss how the ideas from the report can be implemented to reduce the affordable housing gap. The Housing Alliance will propose recommendations this spring for a comprehensive investment in affordable homes that will: 

  • Make the Columbus region a top-tier location to live, work, and create jobs
  • Reduce the number of poor families living in unstable and unaffordable homes
  • Enable employers to find and retain skilled workers
  • Allow seniors and persons with disabilities to stay in their homes, out of institutions
  • Reduce the use of costly public systems, such as hospitals and homeless shelters

Commenting on the report, Housing Alliance Chair E.J. Thomas said, “Solving our affordable housing challenge will take collaboration, commitment and creativity. The Housing Alliance is excited about the possibilities to work with community leaders to make home affordable for everyone in Franklin County.”

To join this conversation, or comment about the report, please contact Bobbie Garber, AHACO Loaned Executive, at

The Housing Vaccine

Brief from Dr. Megan Sandel’s Visit to Columbus
September 30 – October 1, 2015

With quality, affordable housing in short supply, low-wage earners and their children are forced to live in inadequate housing where they can experience health problems, struggle academically, and become mired in economic distress. On any given night in America, 610,000 people are sleeping on the streets and 11 million households are paying half of their income on rent. A worker in Columbus would have to earn $32,440 annually– or double their income at minimum wage – to afford Columbus’ market rate of $811 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Housing should be the first in a series of vaccines

“Affordable housing serves as the first vaccine in a series to ensuring healthy people and communities. You need good education, public safety, and decent jobs as well, but if you don’t start with housing first, none of those interventions will work well."

Being behind on rent strongly associated with:

  • High risk of child food insecurity
  • Children and mothers in fair or poor health
  • Children at risk for developmental delay
  • Mothers experiencing depressive symptoms

“Affordable housing serves as the foundation for success in building healthy communities. It keeps kids in school and parents working, and helps neighbors know each other to protect neighborhoods.”

A study conducted in Minnesota found that first grade through sixth grade students who had moved three or more times scored on average 20 points lower on reading assessments than students who had not moved.

Stocking the housing vaccine in the pharmacy

 “Columbus has not only started to recognize housing as a vaccine, but it is starting to stock the vaccine such as through partnerships like Nationwide Children’s Hospital has with community development agencies and City government.”

Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families focuses on the revitalization of three zip codes around the anchor institution, Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Community Development for All People, Homeport, and Habitat for Humanity Mid-Ohio have been important housing development partners.

Why must we tackle the housing insecurity crisis now?

There is no time to waste. Rents are increasing. Wages are stagnating. The Community Shelter Board reports that in the last three years, the number of homeless families has skyrocketed by 79 percent. Without affordable housing, the health of children and families diminish, health care costs increase, and our workforce suffers.

Improve Child Health and Decrease Infant Mortality

  • Children who experience pre-natal and post-natal homelessness have a 99% increased risk of poor health outcomes
  • Children who move more than two times in a year have as great of social and health problems as those who experience homelessness

Decrease Health Care Costs

  • Chronically homelessness individuals housed in coordination with health care have only a 2% rate of return to homelessness
  • Providing housing, in coordination with healthcare, for a chronically homeless and/or ill individual is far cheaper than continutious, costly interventions through emergency room visits

Create a Stronger Workforce

  • Businesses benefit from having stable, healthly employees. More affordable housing provides companies with a competitive recruitment advantage over cities with higher cost and/or poor quality housing

How to cut the affordable housing gap in half by 2025:

1. Awareness and Advocacy – No community – urban, suburban, or rural – is immune.  In Columbus, 63% of extremely low-income families are housing insecure, spending more than half of their income on housing. Their struggles are personal and often hidden from view.  The Affordable Housing Alliance wants to give those suffering with housing insecurity a voice.

2. Partnerships – We can all help to end this crisis.  Together the Affordable Housing Alliance, Central Ohio businesses, nonprofits, advocates, andpolicymakers caninvest in quality affordable homes and support families in need. These partnerships can work towards ensuring the most economically vulnerable and housing insecure families benefit from affordable housing investment, investing in workforce housing for people with low-wage jobs, and addressing the housing needs of the growing population of seniors.

Dr. Megan Sandel Visit Brief [PDF]