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Report: Ohio homelessness rising

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(The Center Square) – Higher rents and a reduction in pandemic assistance caused a spike in homelessness in Ohio over the past year, according to a group advocating for more affordable housing around the state.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio pointed to U.S. Department of House and Urban Development data that showed more than 11,000 Ohioans homeless on one January night in 2023. That number was a 6.9% increase from the previous year’s count.

Amy Riegel, executive director of the coalition, said rents began to rise during the pandemic and the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in the state rose 18% from 2021 to 2023.

“The lack of affordable housing is the primary cause of homelessness, and the shortage of affordable housing has been growing steadily for years,” Riegel said, citing state data showing over 700,000 Ohioans now spend over half their household income on rent. “Given the enormous and growing gap between rents and renters’ wages, we’re fortunate that homelessness hasn’t risen even more dramatically.”

As rents rise, federal assistance slows and state prevention programs that stopped evictions during the pandemic end, the problem will likely persist.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report showed homelessness grew nationally by 12.1% in 2022, with a 25% increase in the number of people who became homeless for the first time.

“The good news is, Ohio is in a better position than much of the country, where rents are even further out of reach for people stuck in the low-wage economy,” Riegel said. “We still can reverse this troubling trend before it gets completely out of hand. But we need to commit to major investments in affordable housing and services for Ohioans most at risk of eviction and homelessness.”

The report did show Ohio’s homeless veteran population decreased by 15% since 2022.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine announced specifics of a program that commits $150 million to developing affordable housing throughout the state.

The state will give local landbanks $100 million over the next 16 months to create housing for income-eligible Ohioans. It also establishes another $50 million in nonrefundable tax credits to landbanks and developers for rehabs and new construction when the property is sold.

The Welcome Home Ohio program is part of the state budget passed in June and is run through the Ohio Department of Development. Landbanks or land reutilization corporations can apply for $25 million each fiscal year, and the money can be rolled forward.

The state predicts at least 1,600 homes could be built or rehabbed over the two years of the program.

The tax credit will be assessed on a maximum of $90,000 or a third of the cost of rehab or construction, whichever is less. The state believes the credits could lead to at least 550 homes over the two years.

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