Affordable housing is more than just shelter. To the extent that housing is affordable, it determines if people have money left over at the end of the month to provide for food, utilities, and other needs. It determines if your children can grow up in a safe neighborhood. Rising housing costs can mean instability if you have to move. It determines if you live in a safe home with running water and secure shelter in a storm.
Even though Oklahoma is considered an affordable place to live, housing costs are still unaffordable for many lower wage earners. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a family supported by one full-time worker would need to be making $14.33 per hour to afford a two bedroom apartment. Yet the median wage is well below that for tens of thousands of workers in Oklahoma.
A new study produced by a coalition of state and federal agencies and private groups has provided a comprehensive look at the state of affordable housing in Oklahoma. The Statewide Housing Needs Assessment found that about 40 percent of renters and 19 percent of homeowners in Oklahoma are “housing cost overburdened”, which means they are paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.
Going forward, the report finds that to keep pace with Oklahoma’s population growth projections through 2020, the state needs 43,942 new housing units for owners. Nearly 17 percent should be affordable for households below 60 percent of the median income ($28,229). For rental units the need for affordable housing is greater: of the 22,879 needed through 2020, 51 percent need to be affordable for those households below 60 percent median income.
This study was born out of natural disasters in Oklahoma, and the need for safe housing takes on an added urgency in our disaster-prone state. After the 2013 rash of tornadoes that swept through Moore, killing 24 Oklahomans and injuring hundreds more, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided funds to study where Oklahoma needs more safe and affordable housing. Low and moderate income families are often the least safe in a disaster. Many Oklahoma families live in trailers or older homes that are unable to withstand EF4 level winds.
For this reason, the housing study makes several suggestions to policymakers regarding disaster resiliency, including strengthening building codes, preventing development in floodplains, and ensuring that affordable housing developments include access to storm shelters.
To help communities understand the study and what they can do with it, the Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing is hosting a series of forums across the state through June and July.
The dates for the forums are as follows:
- Alva – June 9
- Tulsa (MSA) – June 16
- NE Counties – June 16
- Ardmore – July 12
- Lawton – July 14
You can learn more about the forums and register to attend at http://www.ocahforums.com/.