Adding more housing would mean fewer infant deaths and longer lives, new housing report shows

By: - October 27, 2023 4:50 am

A home, available for sale. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Bridging the affordable housing gap in central Ohio would lead to healthier lives, more jobs and improved educational outcomes. 

This is all according to a new study from the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio that not only spells out how dire the affordable housing crisis is, but looks at how Ohioans would benefit from more stable and secure housing. 

Cutting the affordable housing gap in half would add five and a half years of life expectancy to the poorest Ohioans, 40,000 jobs would be added per year, and 3,000 more third grade students would be reading at-level, the study said.

There would also be 12 fewer infant deaths per year, 2,500 less seniors rationing medication, 5,000 fewer food insecure households and 1,000 fewer homeless youth, it added.

“If we do not act now, we will be leaving all of that potential on the table,” said Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio.

Public safety and education starts with stable housing, said Columbus City Council member Emmanuel Remy.

“All of it’s trivial if people don’t have a roof over their head and a warm place to lay their head at night,” he said. “It’s clear that the Columbus region is facing a housing crisis, but we’re still at a point where we can fix it.”

80,000 central Ohioans are spending more than 50% of their income on just housing, according to the report, which looked at the 15-county central Ohio region. 

“Such extreme affordability forces families to make impossible choices between basic necessities like food or medicine just to keep a roof over their heads,” AHACO’s board chair Bob Bitzenhofer said.

An additional 20,000 central Ohioans could face housing instability in the coming years, he said. 

“That’s the equivalent of the entire city of Newark … falling into housing instability in the next decade,” Bitzenhofer said.

Housing costs go up as more jobs bring people to central Ohio and the average Columbus home price in August was $367,000, according to the AHACO report. 

“It cost too much for too many in Franklin County and the region to be properly housed,” said Michelle Norris, National Church Residences executive vice president of external affairs and strategic initiative. 

“Housing costs in central Ohio are increasing at the fastest pace in the region’s history,” she said. “The area’s home prices are growing three times faster than the area median income.”

Central Ohio will be home to more than 3 million people by 2040. 

“If housing demand follows its current path, demand will greatly surpass housing supply by 2030,” according to the report. “This scenario will undoubtedly have profound impacts, worsening affordability issues and creating an ever-widening gap between housing security and insecurity.”

In Franklin County alone, five school districts would improve and 600 more high school students would graduate if there was more housing, according to the report. 

“Children are living a life of unpredictability and inconsistency within their homes,” said Cara Jeffers, a sixth grade special education teacher at Canal Winchester Local Schools. “Our children are struggling to learn because they are worried about where they will sleep and where they will receive their next meal when they are not in school.” 

She has seen students who have attended four different school districts because of housing instability. 

“Students who face eviction due to rent being raised are moving frequently and not only fall behind educationally but they have difficulty building relationships,” Jeffers said. “These students are consistently meeting new adults, making new friends and struggling to do so because of unstable housing.” 

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.

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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

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