The Chatham developmen
Chatham is a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Project Based Voucher development in New Haven. (Contributed photo)

Rent increases are outpacing wage increases, leaving low-wage workers with limited housing options in Connecticut, according to a report released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and Hartford-based Partnership for Strong Communities. According to the report, titled “Out of Reach,” a minimum wage worker in Connecticut would have to hold down two full-time jobs or work 79 hours a week to afford the rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment.

Connecticut 2022 Housing Wage, according to the report, is an average of $27.80 an hour, which a renter would need to make to afford a two-bedroom rental home. A renter would have to make $22.53 an hour to afford a one-bedroom home, the report states.

Sean Ghio, senior policy advisor at Partnership for Strong Communities, said the report establishes that to consider housing affordable for a person, that housing can’t be more than 30 percent of that person’s total income as folks have to be able to meet their other basic needs – such as food, transportation, child care and healthcare. 

“If you are spending more than 30 percent on housing, you have to start giving up things,” Ghio said. The reality is, Ghio explained, that a lot of renters are spending more than 30 percent on housing, even up to 50 percent in some cases. 

The report comes at a time when residents are dealing with inflation in food costs, transportation and gas prices. Median rents for two-bedroom apartments increased nearly 18 percent between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, according to the report. 

The minimum wage in Connecticut is $14 an hour, which would force someone working at that rate to work 1.6 full-time jobs or 64 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment. 

The cost of living is higher depending on where in Connecticut the individual lives. In the Stamford-Norwalk area, the housing wage, per hour, is $42.88, according to the report. It is lowest, the report states, in Southern Middlesex County, at $27.71.

Ghio said some of the problems facing the state is a lack of affordable housing. 

NLIHC representatives said the government needs to expand programs to help ease the financial burden on those struggling, such as Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing as well as more investment in the national Housing Trust Fund, which provides grants to states to provide affordable housing to low-income residents.

An info-chart from the National Low Income Housing Coalition
An info-chart from the National Low Income Housing Coalition illustrates the gap between the costs associated with housing and current wages in Connecticut. (Right click and select “open image in new tab” to see a larger version of this image). Credit: Contributed / National Low Income Housing Coalition

In Connecticut, there is the Rental Assistance Program to help offset housing costs for low-wage earners. The state would benefit by increasing the number of vouchers available to residents who need them, Ghio said. 

“What are the consequences to the state when you have this many people just barely holding on living a life that is not stable. There are lots of consequences from the economy, to having children ready to go to school, to workers ready to work,” Ghio said. “If housing isn’t stable, it is emotionally and physically exhausting.” 

Ghio said some people end up living in situations that are not safe. He cited a case of someone living in a basement apartment in Stamford that wasn’t ventilated properly.

If someone is experiencing difficulty, they can start the road to finding help by dialing 211.

“That is the first place to get a sense of what is available to get access to help,” Ghio said.