During recent remarks in Danbury, Governor Lamont pointed to the high cost of housing as the main problem stifling the influx of industries and young families settling in Connecticut. The high cost of housing not only hinders our ability to increase our tax base by increasing our state’s population, but it also puts a strain on existing low- and moderate-income households.
Connecticut has been a national leader in efforts to prevent and end homelessness, and the Governor and Legislature continue to make critical investments in affordable housing. However, we simply haven’t built enough housing over the past few decades, resulting in a supply and demand challenge that drives up costs for everyone.
Families in Connecticut continue to struggle under the weight of the 10th highest housing costs in the nation, as rents and purchase prices continue to rise. Statewide, more than 120,000 renter households spend more than 50% of their income on housing, and Connecticut is about to hit the highest monthly eviction deposits in at least 5 years. with
Even before the pandemic, too many of us were struggling to make ends meet. Housing and child care continue to be the two largest expenses for families in Connecticut, accounting for approximately 42% of a family’s budget. According to United Way’s most recent ALICE report, 27% of households are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed); that is, working families earn above the federal poverty level but below the cost of living. By combining households living below the poverty line and ALICE households, 38% of all Connecticut households struggle to meet their basic needs.
There are also stark racial disparities with 63% of Hispanic households, 57% of black households, and 47% of older households living below the ALICE threshold.
Fortunately, we have legislators and advocates proposing policies that will help ease the burden of high housing costs. The HOMEConnecticut campaign, which includes a broad group of stakeholders, has developed a consensus legislative agenda that aims to address the shortage of affordable housing in Connecticut.
HOMEConnecticut Legislative Agenda 2022 identifies three key policy changes to ensure that every resident has access to affordable housing choices in all communities across our state. First, we need to advance housing justice by supporting low- and middle-income households by investing in the state’s Rent Assistance Program (RAP), which gives families a good flex to help them pay rent on the private market. A $20 million investment in RAP would provide rental assistance to approximately 2,000 additional low-income households. Second, we need to remove barriers to building various housing options in our state. Revising zoning regulations to allow for lawful and affordable housing near public transit would increase our state’s housing diversity and provide new options for all households. We must also ensure that all municipalities help meet the state’s housing needs by authorizing their fair share of housing for low- and middle-income households. Third, we must continue to invest in building new affordable housing and preserving existing housing by increasing investments in the Affordable Housing FLEX Fund and the Housing Trust Fund.
Governor Lamont has recognized that Connecticut is not an affordable place for everyone, and I commend him for that. The governor, speaking to the Danbury Chamber of Commerce, promised to step up state investment in affordable housing. This is a critical step because too often the discussion of how to make our state more affordable misses the biggest expense for most families. Creating more housing and making it more affordable is the most powerful way to grow our economy.
Kiley Gosselin is the Executive Director of Partnership for Strong Communities.