Most Franklin County census tracts have housing costs within 30% of the median. How close to average

When many of us imagine the wide variation in housing costs in Central Ohio, we might think simply of what’s less or more expensive on a linear scale. But what can be illustrated by looking at median prices for census tracts compared to the county average?

By categorizing census tracts into the two groups below, we can see which neighborhoods are similar distances from the median—but not based on whether they are higher or lower.

  1. Median housing costs within 30% of the county median, and

  2. Median housing costs more than 30% from the county median.

Instead, this over-simplified visualization is based only on the distance or deviation of housing costs from the median, in either direction.

A detailed look reveals that some census tract median prices are much more than 30% above or below. The census tract with the median gross rent farthest below the county median is Census Tract 51, which is the South Franklinton/Greenlawn Avenue area. In 2018, the median gross rent in this tract was $273. This is 71% lower than the county median of $942.

The tract with the median housing price highest above the Franklin County median is Census Tract 65, the area in Upper Arlington just south of W. Lane Avenue. The tract has a median home value of $572,300—or 256% of the county median of $165,800.

Consider two census tracts in renter-majority tracts that have the same price difference from the median. Tract 77.22 (North Linden) has a median gross rent of $658, which is 30% below the county median of $942. Tract 63.86 (Sawmill & SR161) has a median gross rent of $1,221, which is 30% above the county median.

Similarly, two census tracts in owner-majority tracts with the same difference from the median are 83.60 (Southwest Hilltop/Clime Road) and 68.10 (Colonial Hills, Worthington). Both tracts are 30% from the median, with the Hilltop tract 30% below median value of owner-occupied housing units, and Colonial Hills 30% above. Interestingly, the median gross rents for the tracts are almost identical: $1,202 for Hilltop and $1,256 for Colonial Hills.

The methodology of this approach allows for the visualization of owner-occupied home prices and median gross rent (gross rent = rent + utilities) on the same map. To do this, the census tracts are categorized first as either majority owner-occupied or majority renter-occupied. Based on this categorization, the deviation from the relevant median is displayed. While this approach certainly has limitations, especially with census tracts that have a near perfect split of tenure types, it may help when looking at the tracts with extremes.

For example, in a tract with just 5% of housing units renter-occupied, a series of two maps would include this tract on the renter-occupied map—even though it may have just a few dozen rental units. Combining both metrics onto one map allows for a greater understanding of the relative context of housing prices, not just home values or rents.

Explore the raw data on the table below (click-through to link to Airtable). Using this type of data can help researchers understand housing price geography through the paradigm of deviation from the median, offering a different perspective than traditional analysis.

The graph above shows that the majority of Franklin County census tracts have housing costs 5% to 30% below the county median. This helps highlight the reality of economic and housing price segregation in the county, illustrating that higher cost housing is concentrated in a relatively small number of census tracts.