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Housing crisis continues for many

When the Health Policy Institute of Ohio was commissioned to study the Health Beginning at Home project, it found a problem. Wages for many of those monitored by the study were not matching up to the cost of “affordable” housing. The Columbus-based study, which tested providing rental assistance to pregnant women with unstable housing, in Franklin County, studied 100 families, 49 of which received housing intervention. The study found the housing project resulted in reduced Medicaid spending and overall lower health care spending.

In other words, safe housing removed one element of insecurity in the lives of the women and children they studied. The HPIO recommended the study be replicated on a larger scale to understand long-term housing stability and its relation to healthcare, according to a report in the Ohio Capital Journal.

Also noted in the study was the median hourly wages for the jobs of the study participants — these women worked in jobs such as fast food, home health and nursing assistance and janitorial work. Their jobs paid between $9.72 and $13.88 an hour, in a county in which the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed renters would need to earn $19.08 an hour full-time in order to be spending 30% or less of their income on housing.

But that’s Franklin County. Cost of living is higher there, right? What about Washington County?

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, for someone to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Washington County, and be spending 30% of their income, that person would need to be paid $11.08 an hour. A two-bedroom apartment would require being paid $14.17 an hour. The estimated renter median household income in Washington County, according to the NILHC, is $27,102, which means for the most part renters in our communities can afford only a one-bedroom apartment. Though the NILHC website does not break down wages for Washington County as it did for the Columbus area, it estimated the mean renter wage in Washington County is $12.76 an hour.

So we are doing a little better here in tackling the problem of low-income housing, but not much. Meanwhile, employers know they cannot just snap their fingers and offer a higher wage while our economy still struggles to recover. It creates a bit of a vicious cycle. That means solving this problem will take many parties working together to shore up our economy; create more truly affordable, safe, quality housing; and do our best to give families a chance at a healthier start for their kids.

This isn’t someone else’s problem, folks. Doing right for the next generation is up to us all.

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