Housing Even More Out of Reach in 2002

        According to a report issued by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in conjunction with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, low income workers in the greater Cleveland area must earn almost three times the federal minimum wage or $14.38 per hour, if they are to afford rent for the average two-bedroom apartment. The report, entitled Out of Reach 2002: Rental Housing for America’s Poor Families—Farther Out of Reach Than Ever, takes a detailed look at the ever growing disparity between rental housing costs and the minimum wage.

        “Out of Reach shows that the affordable housing crises in Ohio continues to deepen,” said Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH upon the release of the study. “At a time when the State of Ohio continues to cut all key housing and homeless programs to the tune of 15% over the last year with more cuts expected next year. This has led to many tax paying citizens finding themselves unable to afford rent in Ohio,” said Davis. “As the economy tries to rebound from a slump not seen since the early 1990s, the gap between what people can afford to pay and the real costs of hosing continues to widen at an unprecedented pace.” Since 1997, the housing wage (the amount one must earn per hour for a 40 hour work week if they are to afford the average rent for a two bedroom apartment) for the State of Ohio has jumped by nearly 25 percentage points. To put this into context, the housing wage is nearly two-and a half times the minimum wage.

        “With the State of Ohio facing a budget deficit of approximately $4 billion in the coming biennium, critical elements of the social safety net could well be looking at additional cuts. This does not have to be the situation,” said Davis. “In spite of the current crises, there is a way for the state to step up to the plate and save a key element of the safety net and boost the economy a the same time.” Davis also said, “Permanent and dedicated funding for Ohio’s Housing Trust Fund not only puts affordable housing within reach for the state’s working poor, but it provides a way to pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy.” Since its creation in 1991, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund has provided critical housing assistance to an estimated 317,000 households, created more than 50,000 jobs, and generated more than $1 billion in wages alone. “We need to commit to a dedicated revenue source for the Housing Trust Fund or we will continue to slip further into this housing crises.

        According to the report in Cuyahoga County:

        The housing wage for a one-bedroom apartment in Cuyahoga County is $11.60 per hour (or 225% of the minimum wage), the housing wage for a two bedroom apartment is $14.38 per hour or (279% of the minimum wage) and the housing wage for a three bedroom apartment is $18.29 per hour (or 355% of the minimum wage).

        Minimum wage workers in Cuyahoga County must work at least 90 hours per week to afford rent for a one bedroom apartment, 112 hours per week to afford rent for a two bedroom apartment, and 142 hours per week to afford rent for a three bedroom apartment.

        Things are getting worse according to the report. Across the board within the state’s 88 counties, the amount one must earn to afford an apartment increased from 2001. In fact, the Cleveland area recorded a jump in housing wage of more than three percentage points. By comparison, the inflation rate for 2001 was less than two percent. While this difference is slight, it shows that housing costs continue to outpace inflation.

          Published in the November 2002 Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 57