By Bruce Luecke
In 2010, New York’s Jimmy McMillan burst on the national political scene on behalf of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Eight years later, his passionate message is resonating and visible – right here in Central Ohio.
The need for affordable housing in our area is so critical that Homeport’s Board has endorsed expanding the scope of the organization’s 31-year-old mission.
While continuing to meet the needs of households earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income by building, acquiring and rehabbing apartments, cottages and single-family homes, Homeport will now, also, be looking for ways to provide housing for those making up to 100 percent of the area’s median income. This will require creative new sources of investment capital and, at times, partnerships and I look forward to sharing projects with you in future letters.
This is an important distinction for us and the community we serve, underscored by a series of studies and news stories about our area.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition in May released an annual study that stated the Columbus Metropolitan area has the most expensive “housing wage” in Ohio. Its findings said:
· A local family needs to earn $17.50 an hour ($36,400 a year) to afford a market rate 2-bedroom apartment rent of $910 a month.
· Renters -- 40 percent of the overall housing market -- earn an average of $15.31 an hour.
To stay within the generally accepted 30 percent income assignment for rent, they should not be spending more than $796.
The report also said a minimum wage individual would need to work more than 80 hours a week to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment.
Educational opportunities and a diverse, growing economy have made Central Ohio a very desirable area. In April, Realtor.com ranked us the fourth hottest housing market in the country after Midland, TX, Boston and San Francisco.
And our good friends at Columbus Realtors tell us that every month, for more than seven years, there have been fewer existing homes to purchase. Homes are being snapped up quickly and in many cases for more than the original asking price.
And then there is this: Central Ohio is projected to add 1 million residents by 2050.
All of these factors have an impact on the rental market. It is obvious there is a need for us to do more, to not stay stagnant in our approach and whom we serve.
We remain committed to building low-to-moderate income rental housing, primarily using the traditional Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. This will provide stability for children going to school and parents going to work.
But we will be doing more, to help others in need. Look for us – very soon -- to be collaborating with social minded investors and market rate builders to create more space for middle income workers, to help those who parrot Jimmy McMillan’s mantra that “the rent is too damn high.”
(Bruce Luecke is President & CEO of Homeport. To hear more from Bruce about the topic of this column, click here and listen to his interview on Sunny 95. )