Website ranks Cleveland on ‘most stressed’ list

JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 6/2/16

A career-oriented website has released a list of the top 10 “most stressed places in Tennessee.”

Zippia, which tags itself “the career expert,” ranked Cleveland as the eighth most stressed …

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Website ranks Cleveland on ‘most stressed’ list

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A career-oriented website has released a list of the top 10 “most stressed places in Tennessee.”

Zippia, which tags itself “the career expert,” ranked Cleveland as the eighth most stressed city in Tennessee based on data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey for 2010-2014.

The site used data on certain stress triggers to determine its ranking, including “percentage of population with a long commute (over 30 minutes), unemployment rate, hours worked, population density, percentage of income spent on rent and percentage of population without health insurance.”

“The higher any of these was, the more stressful the people of the place are,” the site states.

Of special interest to Zippia rankers were the stress factors that related closely with employment. These included percentages listed for high rent, long commutes and lack of insurance.

In spite of the Zippia ranking, Bradley County’s last reported unemployment rate (for April) was 3.6 percent, which placed the local community in a two-way tie for the 15th lowest in the state.

At the time the data was analyzed, the population of Cleveland was 42,331. Some 52 percent of the population was reported to be paying high rent. Nearly 24 percent were commuting more than 30 minutes to work and about 16 percent of the population was without insurance.

Lenoir City was listed as the most stressful city in Tennessee with nearly 57 percent of the population paying high rent. Of the 8,867 residents at the time of the data, 33 percent had a commute of a half-hour or more to work and 22 percent did not have health insurance. Other cities listed as more stressed than Cleveland, in order of the ranking from second to seventh, included Memphis, Covington, La Vergne, Columbia, LaFollette and Brownsville.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2014, there were 770 people who had to commute an hour or more to get to work. (This number was given with a margin of error of plus or minus 251.)

A lot of industry has developed in Cleveland since 2014 that could have provided jobs closer to home for some of these people. However, more recent data is not available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The cost of housing in Cleveland is has been discussed as a concern by various groups in recent years with an emphasis on the need for more affordable housing.

The United Way of the Ocoee Region formed the Housing Coalition last year to raise awareness for and study housing need in Bradley County and Cleveland.

“With the housing symposium we held last November, we really made a point to raise awareness of the top three needs related to housing that we found,” said Sarah Haratine. “The top one is affordability.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines households that spent more than 30 percent on housing as cost burdened.

She said data for homeowners who are cost burdened represents those who are paying more than 30 percent because they do not make enough income, as well as those who chose a house out of their price range simply because they wanted a nicer home.

Renting is not always less expensive than buying a house. Haratine said sometimes a weekly rent rate can turn out to cost more over a month’s time than would a mortgage.

According to information from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, in 2013 someone making $13.35 an hour in Bradley County could not afford to buy or rent a home without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Data showed that those in retail sales, cashiers and waiters/waitresses jobs making the average for this area made sufficiently less than this.

“We are the only MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) that the majority of occupations, you can’t do either (buy or rent)” without being cost burdened, Haratine said.

The median rent in 2013 for a two-bedroom apartment was $731, which would mean someone would need to make $14.06 an hour to afford this without being cost burdened.

It was this data that led the United Way to hold a housing symposium last year.

“It was just a really big red flag in our mind. Why is there not more affordable housing?” Haratine said.

There are two solutions to this dilemma — raise the average wage for jobs that do not make the amount needed to afford the average housing costs, or make housing more affordable.

“Or, you can work collaboratively,” Haratine said.

Community Development Corporations can be a way to provide housing options to those occupations that cannot afford housing without being cost burdened, but do not qualify for housing assistance through the local housing agency.

“It is basically an organization that has the capability to buy homes and sell them (or rent them) at a more affordable price,” Haratine said.

They can also do home loans and repairs. The Bradley County Housing Coalition hopes to establish such an organization in Cleveland in the future, to fill the gap of those currently not served by other programs. Haratine said it would serve those make 50 to 90 percent of the median income. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the median income for Cleveland in 2014 was $37,325, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3,113.

Knoxville, Blount County and Memphis each have one of these organizations.

The Housing Coalition also wants to address the root causes of housing costs. The root causes committee of the Housing Coalition “is really focusing on mental health. They are focusing on how can we just promote more stable income and provide that.”

This committee is also looking at the transportation and child care needs that may be obstacles to a person being able to consistently work. It has also held events to gauge interest of members of the community to collaborate in helping each other with child care and transportation.

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