Low-Income Renters Struggle to Find Housing

Feb 24, 2012

Home values continue to fall, and yet housing is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. As WNPR’s Neena Satija reports, a new study from the Center for Housing Policy shows the situation is particularly dire in Connecticut.

In 2010, nearly a quarter of all working households suffered from what’s called a “severe housing cost burden.” That means more than 50 percent of households' income goes toward housing. The problem is worst for people who are renting. Megan Bolton is a senior research analyst at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

BOLTON: “People are just less and less sure about owning a home or buying a home, and so the rental market is being flooded. And people are having a very difficult time finding a unit that they can rent and is affordable to them.”

This year, the federal government says the fair-market rent for a 4-bedroom apartment in New Haven is $1,850. That’s up more than $200 from just 2 years ago. The increase means the government can’t help as many people who are in need of housing. There are thousands of people on the waiting list for rental assistance programs in New Haven alone. Carla Weil of the Greater New Haven Loan Fund says the developments that have been built in the city recently – including the new high rise downtown – help high-end renters, but not those who are really in need. 

WEIL: “Building 500 units at 360 State Street doesn’t necessarily change the situation in the more impacted neighborhoods in terms of housing availability.”

That gap between the high-end and low-end housing markets is true across the state. According to Bolton, the number of extreme low-income renters in Connecticut went up by 3000 between 2009 and 2010. During that same time period, the number of affordable rental units for them decreased by about 5000. But the number of rental units for moderate and high-income renters actually increased slightly.