Call for Action: Increasing Funding for Connecticut’s Rental Assistance Program

By: Chelsea Ross, Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities

The Urgent Need
Each day, we witness the devastating impacts of the lack of affordable housing on families and communities across Connecticut. Rents have skyrocketed by an average of 20% statewide since 2021, exacerbating the challenges faced by vulnerable households. Shockingly, we have witnessed a 14% rise in homelessness over the past three years, with individuals and families forced to seek shelter in places not meant for human habitation. We know we need more homes in Connecticut. All different types, for all different income levels, in all different communities. We also know that developing new housing takes a while, it’s expensive, and it isn’t always welcome in every community. Families are suffering and we need to prioritize the expansion of cost-effective rental assistance to meet the immediate needs of our most vulnerable residents.

The Role of Rental Assistance Program (RAP)
Connecticut’s Rental Assistance Program (RAP) plays a crucial role in supporting very low-income households. Similar to the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program, RAP subsidizes a portion of rent, adjusting with changes in household income to maintain affordability. Administered by the Department of Housing (DOH), RAP vouchers offer flexibility, allowing families to secure housing that meets quality standards in communities across our state.

The Funding Gap
A flat budget allocation for FY25 will result in fewer households served by RAP over time, when thousands of residents need immediate housing subsidy to end or prevent the experience of homelessness. RAP is expected to run a deficit this fiscal year due to increases in rent and therefore increases in the amount of subsidy the program must pay landlords. A $16 million increase in the Housing/Homeless Services Line, specifically allocated for RAP, is imperative to address the escalating crisis. This funding would not only keep pace with escalating rental costs but also provide stable homes for approximately 650 additional low-income families next fiscal year.

The Impact of Housing Vouchers
The effectiveness of RAP extends far beyond housing affordability. We have submitted written testimony which summarizes how vouchers improve health and educational outcomes while reducing homelessness, poverty, and racial disparities. It is crucial to highlight that RAP supports highly vulnerable populations, including veterans, families with child welfare involvement, individuals with high Medicaid utilization, those involved in the justice system, individuals transitioning from nursing homes, and people with disabilities.

Call to Action
We urge the legislature to support additional funding for RAP in the Housing/Homeless Services line item as a key strategy to addressing our state’s affordable housing crisis. Allocating an additional funds to RAP is an investment in the well-being and stability of Connecticut families.

The above blog post is taken from oral testimony given by Chelsea Ross to the Appropriations Committee on February 23, 2024.

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