A lack of housing construction activity in Connecticut is forcing working-class renters to spend more money to live in crowded communities with limited resources, according to a report released Tuesday by the Partnership for Strong Communities.
Last year, Connecticut built the least amount of housing units per capita in the country. And this year only 29 of state’s 169 cities and towns had an affordable housing stock of 10 percent or more, leaving most of the state with an affordable housing stock available of five percent or less. This means housing units aren’t being built fast enough to meet the demand, according to the report, and an increase in rental prices is the result.
Connecticut has the 6th highest hourly “housing wage” in the nation at $23.58. Renters in Connecticut must earn a salary of $49,000 to afford a 2-bedroom apartment without spending more that 30 percent of his or her income on rent expenses. This number has increased by $20,000 since 2004 and translates into a required wage of $23.58 per hour, according to the report.
Fifty-two percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, the report says.
Residents who make less than half of the median-income were faced with an 82,578-unit shortage of affordable and available rental homes in 2011.
Retirees with less than $25,000 in savings and indebted students are suffering as well. They will need smaller, denser, affordable and energy-efficient homes, according to demographers and housing experts, very few of which are available.
These increasing costs and scarcity of available housing units are forcing residents to live in dire straits. In 2012, 765 children were homeless on a single night in January, according to the CT Coalition to End Homelessness. Additionally, the United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Infoline received an average of 6,600 requests for housing assistance each month this year.
The shortage in housing units is linked to a reduced amount of federal funding for housing because of pressure to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Other factors, like an increased disparity of wealth, have contributed to these increases. According to data from the U.S Census Bureau, Low-income families in the state’s bottom 20 percent saw their median household incomes drop $703 from 2006 to 2011 — from $14,554 to $13,851. On the other end, people who earn higher income brackets are earning more. Those in the top 20 percent saw their median household incomes rise from $226,744 in 2006 to $239,273 in 2011. Wealthier residents have the potential to make the cost of housing, as well as other goods and services, rise.
Connecticut has the 2nd highest wealth disparity in the nation, following New York state.
Homeowners and those looking to sell their homes are experiencing a tougher market and also are burdened by housing costs. The report shows that prices fell from their peak in 2007-08 making homes more available to people who want to spend no more than $300,000. However, in 2011, studies show that homeowners spent 36.1 percent of their income on housing costs, a number that increased by 16 percent since 2000.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is trying to alleviate stress for low-income residents with an increase in the amount of money the state will use to build affordable housing. In August, he proposed borrowing nearly $300 million to create more than 1,000 affordable rental units.
Click here to read more about that effort.