Myth Debunk'd: Who Lives in Affordable Housing?

Myths Debunked

The current rental market in Ohio is challenging for many, particularly families with low-to-moderate incomes. Over the last decade, median rent across the state increased by 5%, which has led to about a quarter of Ohio families spending more than half their income on housing. While more housing may help with this issue, much of the new rental development is focused on high earning populations. One of the significant challenges to building affordable housing is the pushback or rejection of developments by people with a NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality.

NIMBYism is opposition to housing development—particularly affordable housing—in proximity to one's neighborhood. NIMBYism is often prompted by negative ideas about who lives in affordable housing. One stigma is pervasive: People living in affordable housing are 'freeloaders' who don't work or have stable employment.

But data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the Ohio Housing Finance Agency found that this is an inaccurate portrait of many residents living in affordable housing, also known as Low Income Housing Tax Credit, properties. Most not only work consistently, but frequently have stable employment at more than one job.1

Analysis found that in 2016, the average labor force participation rate in Ohio was 62.7%. The employment rate among LIHTC residents was 65.6%, nearly 3% higher than non-LIHTC residents.2

Not only did LIHTC residents work consistently, but they also frequently held multiple jobs simultaneously. The average LIHTC resident had an average of 3.3 unique employers in 2016 and worked an average of 34.2 weeks for each employer, meaning that during the year they worked for more than one employer consistently. Nearly two-thirds of LIHTC residents had four unique employers during the year, working an average of 44.2 weeks for each employer.

Yet, despite holding down multiple jobs, these residents still do not earn enough to access available safe, quality family housing, a factor that could improve the economic mobility of a low-income resident. The average income for LIHTC residents earning at least $1,000 in 2016 was $15,117 pre-tax, the equivalent of working 37.3 hours per week at minimum wage for over 50 weeks. According to OHFA's Housing Needs Assessment, the average rent in Ohio was about $764 per month, equivalent to $9,168 per year. This would be 61% of the average pre-tax annual income of LIHTC residents. Households are considered to be cost-burdened when they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and severely cost-burdened when they spend more than 50%. Without affordable housing options, many LIHTC residents would severely cost-burdened with 61% of their annual income going towards housing expenses.

Factors such as rapidly rising housing costs and a relatively stagnant minimum wage have put housing out of reach for lower-income, working families. Paying nearly $10,000 a year for safe, comfortable housing is unattainable for many individuals and families in Ohio, even if they are employed full-time or have multiple jobs. People who live in affordable housing do not need housing assistance because they are freeloaders, but simply because wages are low and housing costs are high.

1 LIHTC is a tax credit used to finance construction and rehabilitation and helps produce the majority of affordable housing developments across the country.
2 Excluding full-time students and individuals with disabilities or special needs.