Eastern Ohio is beginning to experience a shortage of affordable and available housing for the poor because another group has tapped much of the existing stock: drilling company workers.
And the problem is expected to worsen, with smaller communities being affected the most, according to a report from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Affordable Housing Research and Strategic Planning.
The agency — along with Ohio Development Services Agency, Ohio State University, Ohio University, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and Columbus-based Vogt Santer Insights — has issued four reports it commissioned to examine affordable housing in eastern Ohio.
One report looked at Carroll County, southeast of Canton, where the Utica shale drilling boom has led “to a strain on the existing housing infrastructure.” Researchers said the problem is likely to expand in the next year to Stark, Tuscarawas and Columbiana counties.
Most shale workers live temporarily in eastern Ohio and have been able to find housing in single-home rental units, local hotels, campgrounds or other options, the researchers said.
There is strong resistance to developing barracks-style “man-camps” as a housing option. Communities are reluctant to invest millions of dollars on new housing, water and sewers for a temporary population, the authors said.
The growing shortage of rental homes in eastern Ohio has left moderate- and low-income residents with limited housing options, especially after landlords have hiked rents, the groups said.
The influx of drilling company workers, many with high housing per-diems, and limited availability of affordable housing also have contributed to the problem.
“As this drilling expands in eastern Ohio, we anticipate that additional housing shortages will take place throughout the region with smaller communities being affected the most,” said Robin Stewart, project manager at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. “Additional analysis will help develop a regional strategy that ensures affordable housing options remain available for the area’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Ohio State’s Mark Partridge added, “The good news is that most places with shale development are able to address housing needs for the middle class without too much disruption, though there appears to be some issues for some lower-income households as the boom begins.”
The studies provide a benchmark “for further study of housing insecurity” as the drilling industry grows in Ohio, said Bill Faith of the homeless coalition.
The OU team examined the ongoing effect of shale development on rental housing availability and cost, along with its effect on the homeless. It looked at Carroll County, where drilling has been the most extensive.
Ohio State researchers looked at the problem in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York, although no drilling has taken place in New York because of a state-imposed moratorium.
The four reports are the first attempts to look at Utica shale’s impact on housing, OHFA Executive Director Doug Garver said.
“As the first research efforts of its kind in the state, each report provides valuable information for policymakers to address housing needs, but also raises additional questions and the necessity to monitor housing markets in eastern Ohio,” he said in a statement.
Ohio needs to develop strategies to meet the needs of Ohioans and prepare for future business investment, said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency.
The biggest barrier to developing housing plans is what the researchers called the “high levels of uncertainty regarding the trajectory of shale development.”
Research showed that modest increases in the development of hotels and low-income housing might be warranted. However, it is imperative to continue monitoring housing availability and affordability to ensure the markets can respond to housing needs as they arise.
The reports are available at www.ohiohome.org/research/multifamily.aspx.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.