- Doug Smith
Affordable Housing in Worthington
City Council (in tandem with the Worthington Community Relations Commission) recently sponsored the Inclusive Housing Initiative to more deeply explore the topic affordable housing in the region and in Worthington. The goal is to develop a framework to engage the community in a deep dialogue about this issue.
I have researched and reflected about this issue over the years and have engaged with residents about what affordable housing could look like in Worthington. I continue to seek resident feedback and information. Provide thoughts and feedback here.
Open to Affordable Housing
Generally, residents seem open to affordable housing in Worthington. But there is no clear definition to what this means when talking about the issue.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designates housing as affordable if the gross costs to live in that housing unit, including utilities, do not exceed 30 percent of the gross income of the resident(s).
For a family making $40,000, the cited affordable housing criteria would require housing to be $1,000 per month or less for that family.
Does Increasing Density Increase Affordability?
In Worthington, increasing density does necessarily not lead to decreasing rental rates. Conventional economics says when you saturate a market with more units and more options, the market will drive down price points. This may be true when you have an unlimited ability to increase units in an area. For Worthington, we are limited with what space we have available to develop. Is there a magic number of units that would make housing more affordable in a place like Worthington?
Below is a table of some of the current apartment rentals in the city. These are Worthington apartments available in October 2021, found online. This does not include single-family housing rentals, which tend to rent for higher monthly costs than those listed in the table.
*NCR is setting aside 65 units (one-bedroom) for low-income seniors who meet the Federal Low Income Housing program requirements. Please note the average monthly social security payment to seniors is $1,550.
According to the current rate information: the more units developed, the more the price increases. Why is this? Worthington is a highly desirable place and people want to live here. That demand drives up housing prices, including rental costs.
The UMCH Property
Regarding the UMCH property, the current property owner - Lifestyles Communities (LC) - has a specific business model to build high-density apartments and offer them at market rate.
According to the LC rental website, the average LC 2-bedroom rental is $1,400 and the average 1-bedroom is $1,100.
Using the affordable housing formula mentioned above, low-earning families cannot find affordable housing in Worthington. Any market-based housing product will not likely provide affordable housing to individuals and families earning less than approximately $48,000 salary.
A household earning $32,000 to $53,000 is considered lower middle-class in Ohio (PEW). The average Franklin County household income is $64,700. And, a household with an income of $19,400 or less could apply for housing vouchers.
What can we do?
Though I have been researching this topic, and following the trends, for a few years, I am not an expert. I hope to learn more about what the affordable housing experts and economists say about diverse housing.
I also want to know what you think. How do we approach this topic as a city? Can/should the city help increase affordable housing in some way?
Please provide your feedback here.
I intend to keep learning and writing articles about this topic because there is too much to address in one article and one point in time.