The Columbus metro region is growing at a phenomenal rate.  When the 2050 plan was rolled out a few years back, the prediction was that our region would grow by 500,000 people by 2050.  By 2029, we should reach that number.  

Have you ever asked yourself, why are some neighborhoods full of beautiful, high quality homes, good schools, lots of thriving businesses while other neighborhoods have many boarded up and substandard homes with lead, mold, infestation, few thriving businesses and crime?  Why in our community with so much opportunity, gang violence, despair and homelessness are increasing? And with our population increasing, will there be more people living in concentrated poverty?

Many people are afraid of including housing for others---those with limited incomes, people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, people from other countries, the formerly incarcerated---in their neighborhoods.  They may fear for their safety, or their property values, or the impact on their schools, or just not want to live with people not just like themselves.

All of us are at risk, economically, socially and morally, when we don't reside in opportunity rich, inclusive neighborhoods where everyone has a decent, safe, healthy, affordable place to call home.  

Here is another picture of central Ohio, one that you don’t see everyday.

  • Central Ohio is the 2nd most economically segregated metro area in the country.  And with economic segregation comes racial segregation.
    Columbus Dispatch

  • 54,000 people in our community need decent, safe, affordable and accessible homes in which to live.  Family homelessness has increased significantly in the past few years.

  • Almost 50% of renters are cost burdened paying more than 30% of their income for rent.  This means that they must make tough choices.  Do they pay rent to have a roof over their heads, or buy food to fill their empty bellies, or obtain health care, transportation and fill other needs?

  • Half of all inmates in jails and prisons have a mental illness of some kind and many should not be incarcerated. Rather, they should be living in supportive housing with appropriate supports.
    Urban Institute

  • 10% of children have or had a parent incarcerated and ⅔ live in households that need affordable housing to thrive.

  • 25% of children in Central Ohio live in poverty, most in high poverty neighborhoods.

  • 20,500 young adults ages 16-24 in Franklin County are not in school or working, many of whom are homeless or at risk of being homeless and already have children.
    Columbus Foundation

  • High poverty neighborhoods are magnets for gang activities and violence

Individuals and families cannot access opportunity and cannot access economic mobility unless they have a stable foundation.  That stable foundation comes from housing. Source: Inclusive Policy Toolkit

Studies show that communities are more prosperous and resilient when we extend opportunity broadly. When low income children, white and black, live in safe neighborhoods and attend good schools, they are much more likely to go to college, get a better, higher paying job, delay having children, and avoid engaging in activities that can land them in prison.  This is the way to end poverty.

When those who are affluent are segregated in their own communities, they interact less with middle and low income families.  This isolation insulates the well to do from the day to day struggles of others (Inclusive Policy Toolkit).They can’t put a face on those less well off, thus eroding some of the social empathy that leads to support of social programs and services such as healthcare, education, employment training that they can afford for themselves and their families, but are needed as well by others.

This segregation is not good for young people, whether rich, poor or in between, black or white, who must learn later how to work, and work with people who are not exactly like themselves.

There are clear benefits to businesses and employers when employment dense areas are affordable to all workers.  Studies show that businesses perform better when employees can find affordable living options near their jobs (The Housing Vaccine). Shortened commutes allow employers more choices of employees, and happier employees with less stress have more time with families (Inclusive Policy Toolkit).

So what’s at risk by not ensuring that every neighborhood is inclusive and has housing and opportunities for everyone to succeed?  First and foremost, our humanity is at risk.  A moral society is one where we care for our neighbors.  A caring society does not incarcerate the mentally ill rather than provide supportive housing with appropriate services.  A moral society does not have homeless children, seniors, families, veterans and others living without the basic necessities of life.  It does not discharge people from hospitals to the streets or homeless shelters who need continuing care or who have just given birth.

What’s at risk is our economy.  We need our young people to succeed in school and be ready to become highly functioning participants in the workforce of tomorrow.  They won’t be if they don’t have a stable home from which to launch which is not in an area of concentrated poverty.

And most importantly, we personally are each at risk.  We are better when we live in vibrant, inclusive communities with people with diverse incomes, cultures, races, religions, and sexual orientation.  Every type of diversity.  It allows for greater creativity, economic vibrancy, equality, and economic mobility.