Housing Grows “Out of Reach” in Most Cities

            According to a report released by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), in conjunction with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, low-income workers in the greater Cleveland area must earn nearly three times the federal minimum wage or $14.46 per hour, if they are to afford rent for the average two-bedroom apartment. The report, entitled Out of Reach 2003: America’s Housing Wage Climbs, takes a detailed and much needed look at the ever-growing disparity between rental housing costs and the minimum wage.

            “Out of Reach shows all too well, that the affordable housing crisis in this state continues to worsen,” said Bill Faith, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “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 housing 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 more than 25 percentage points. To put this into context, the housing wage is nearly two-and-a-half times the minimum wage.”

            Faith continued, “The housing situation for people with incomes at the lower end of the spectrum in Ohio is even worse than it was last year. The bottom line is that people just don’t earn enough to be able to afford even modest rental housing,” said Faith. “It is unconscionable that people in this state who work full time still cannot afford a decent place to live. It is time to make the affordable housing crisis a priority in the State of Ohio and solve this problem once and for all. The state took a significant step in the right direction earlier this year, when it secured permanent and dedicated funding for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, but more could be done to narrow the housing affordability gap. Ensuring that all the money generated by an increase in the county recordation fee goes to affordable housing efforts is one concrete step the state could take to narrow this gap,” said Faith.

According to the report:

• The housing wage (the amount one must earn) for a one-bedroom apartment in the Cleveland area is $11.65 per hour (or 226% of the minimum wage), the housing wage for a two-bedroom apartment is $14.46 per hour (or 281% of the minimum wage), and the housing wage for a three-bedroom apartment is $18.38 per hour (or 357% of the minimum wage).

•Minimum wage workers in the Cleveland area must work at least 91 hours per week to afford rent for a one-bedroom apartment, 112 hours per week to afford rent for a two-bedroom apartment, and 143 hours per week to afford rent for a three-bedroom apartment.

            Things are getting worse. Across the board within the state’s 88 counties, the amount one must earn to afford an apartment increased from 2002. Since 2000, the housing wage for the state has increased by more than 15 percentage points, while the inflation rate for the past three years has remained around two percent..

            More data for all of Ohio’s counties and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) are available at the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) website: www.nlihc.org. Click on Out of Reach 2003.

            The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) is a state-wide coalition of organizations and individuals committed to ending homelessness and to promoting safe, decent, and affordable housing for all, with an emphasis on assisting low-income persons and those with special needs. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is the local lobbyist for homeless people in Cleveland. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) is the only national organization dedicated solely to ending America’s affordable housing crisis.

Copyright of the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio September 2003 Issue 62.