During recent remarks in Danbury, Governor Lamont highlighted the high cost of housing as the biggest issue stifling the influx of both industry and young families moving to Connecticut. The high cost of housing not only dampens our ability to increase our tax base by growing our state’s population, it also severely strains existing low- and moderate-income households.
Connecticut has been a national leader in the effort 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 several decades – resulting in a supply and demand challenge that is driving up costs for everyone.
Connecticut families continue to struggle under the weight of the nation’s 10th highest housing costs with rents and purchase prices continuing to rise. Across the state, over 120,000 renter households spend more than 50% of their income on housing, and Connecticut is poised to reach the highest monthly eviction filings in at least 5 years. with
Even prior to the pandemic, too many of us were stretching to make ends meet. Housing and childcare continue to be the two largest expenses for Connecticut families, making up an estimated 42% of a family’s budget. According to the United Way’s most recent ALICE Report, 27% of households are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed); that is, working families earning above the federal poverty level but below the cost of living. Combining those households living under the poverty line and ALICE households, 38% of all Connecticut households are struggling to meet their basic needs.
There are also stark racial disparities with 63% of Hispanic households, 57% of Black households, and 47% of elderly households living below the ALICE threshold.
Luckily, we have legislators and advocates advancing policies that will help to alleviate the burden of high housing costs. The HOMEConnecticut Campaign, which includes a wide group of stakeholders, developed a consensus legislative agenda that works to address Connecticut’s affordable housing shortage.
HOMEConnecticut’s 2022 Legislative Agenda identifies three key policy changes to ensure every resident has access to affordable housing choices in all communities across our state. First, we must advance housing justice by supporting low- and moderate-income households through investing in the state’s Rental Assistance Program (RAP), which provides families a flexible voucher to help them afford rent in the private market. An investment of $20 million in RAP would provide rental assistance to roughly 2,000 additional low-income households. Second, we must remove barriers to building diverse housing options across our state. Revising zoning regulations to allow as-of-right and affordable housing near transit would increase our state’s housing diversity and provide new options for all households. We must also ensure all municipalities contribute to meeting the housing needs of the state by permitting their fair share of housing for low- and moderate-income households. Third, we must continue to invest in building new and preserving existing affordable housing by increasing investments in the Affordable Housing FLEX Fund and the Housing Trust Fund.
Governor Lamont has acknowledged that Connecticut is not an affordable place for everyone, and for that I commend him. The governor, speaking before the Danbury Chamber of Commerce, promised to intensify the state’s investments in affordable housing. This is a critical step because too often the discussion of how to make our state more affordable is missing the largest expense for most families. Creating more housing and making housing more affordable is the most powerful way to grow our economy.
Kiley Gosselin is the executive director of Partnership for Strong Communities.