by Kimberly James
Renters in Connecticut are short on options with prices soaring.
“Currently, Connecticut has a shortage of 85,000 units of affordable housing for those families that earn an income of 80% or below the AMI,” Renée Dobos, CEO of Connecticut Housing Partners, told The Center Square. AMI is an acronym for area medium income.
“Those families,” she said, “that hold a housing choice voucher are finding it increasingly difficult to find a rental unit that they can afford. If the voucher for a two-bedroom is worth $2,000 and a landlord is charging $2,500 for a two-bedroom apartment, it puts the apartment out of their reach.”
Dobos said that in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment, a household would need to make double the current minimum wage of $14 per hour in order to not be rent burdened. When a household pays more than 30% of their income towards rent, Dobos said, difficult choices are made, such as not seeking medical care, food choices, car repairs and others. When a household knows that the first bill to be paid is rent, people are going to do what they need to do, and this may mean foregoing meals.
Some families are staying put, but many others are forced out by rising rent costs.
“Unfortunately, when a lease renews, the landlord often raises the rent to an unaffordable level,” Dobos said. “This is placing a lot of pressure on households and their ability to find replacement housing is challenging, which means they may be forced into substandard housing because it meets their budget. We’re seeing more and more households that are stuck in between not being able to afford rent and not being able to afford purchasing their own home.”
There are few options, as many affordable housing developments have long wait lists and housing choice voucher lists are closed. Dobos said the state’s population continues to shrink, as rent isn’t the only factor affecting affordability.
The only solution, Dobos said, is to build more affordable housing.
“At Connecticut Housing Partners, we can’t build fast enough, but we are very reliant on tax credits, federal or state programs, and the process is lengthy and very bureaucratic,” Dobos said. “It can take two years from concept to groundbreaking on a project. We need more access to money to build affordable housing and more access to vouchers. I’m hoping that since it’s being discussed, lawmakers will appropriate the funding needed to move the development of affordable housing forward.”
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