Federal and state lawmakers are eyeing major reforms in response to a Hearst Connecticut Media Group investigation which revealed half of vouchers issued to help low-income residents find affordable housing in the state went unused.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, called the situation “heartbreaking” and cited how the report found a confluence of factors has fueled the problem.
“We are in kind of a perfect storm of sky-high rents, mountains of red tape, and discrimination that we need to address,” Blumenthal added. “[For voucher holders] the housing market is a maze, a labyrinth of restrictions and rules. We need to deal with some of the root causes of these problems.”
At the state level, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, called the investigative report’s findings “very frustrating” and “alarming.” House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, called them “disheartening.” Both said they and their colleagues in the legislature must act.
Since 2020, a total of nearly 3,000 vouchers have gone unused, or about 50 percent of the vouchers issued. It’s not a new problem. Until a couple years ago, about one-third were going unused. But it’s grown worse in recent years amid the pandemic and the hot housing market.
Connecticut has the lowest rental housing vacancy rate in the country, meaning there’s a low inventory of available units and fierce competition for them. And voucher values have not kept up with spiking rents.
Another hurdle voucher winners face: Few local housing authorities allow recipients to use the subsidies outside of their town – which effectively shrinks the housing market they can search. The authorities have a disincentive to transfer vouchers because, under federal rules, they stand to lose the administrative funding attached to each voucher that helps pay their staff’s salaries.
Lawmakers eye reforms after report finds half of affordable housing vouchers going unused in CT, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Insider, December 17, 2022, available here