New report finds renters must make nearly $28 an hour to afford two-bedroom apartment in Connecticut

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A Connecticut renter must earn $27.80 an hour to comfortably afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in the state, a new report has found.

A Connecticut renter must earn $27.80 an hour to comfortably afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in the state, a new report has found.

Patrick Sikes / For Hearst Connecticut Media

A Connecticut renter must earn $27.80 an hour to comfortably afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in the state, a new report has found.

To comfortably afford even a one-bedroom apartment in Connecticut, the report says, a renter must earn $22.53 — far above the state’s current $14 minimum wage.

By these measures, Connecticut ranks as the 10th most expensive state to rent in, according to the annual report, which was produced by the the National Low Income Housing Coalition in tandem with the Connecticut-based Partnership for Strong Communities.

“Connecticut is still one of the most expensive states to live in and still has a big gap between what NLIHC calculates as the ‘housing wage’ ... and what renters actually earn,” said Sean Ghio, senior policy adviser at Partnership for Strong Communities.

According to the NLIHC report, the average renter in Connecticut earns $21.30 an hour, short of the level at which they can comfortably afford even a one-bedroom apartment. A minimum-wage worker in Connecticut would have to work 79 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment and 64 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment, the report says.

Unsurprisingly, the report found that the cost to rent in Connecticut varies dramatically from one part of the state to another. In the Stamford-Norwalk metro area, a renter must make $42.88 an hour to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment, highest of any area, while in Windham County someone can afford a two-bedroom apartment while making $21.35, lowest of any area.

The report’s calculations are based on the idea that families shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Above that figure, Ghio said, families often have to sacrifice in other areas.

“If you spend that much on housing you are not spending it on other basic needs for your family, including food and including clothing and including health care,” Ghio said. “And all of those things have ramifications across a family’s life.”

According to a Harvard University report released in 2020, 10.9 million renters nationwide, or about one in four overall, spent more than half their incomes on housing as of 2018.

In Connecticut and elsewhere, housing prices have increased sharply in recent years, particularly since early 2021, in a trend experts have attributed to low vacancy rates, slowed construction and overall inflation. In just the past year, the hourly wage necessary to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment has increased 43 cents in Connecticut, according to the NLIHC report.

That increase was particularly sharp in the Stamford-Norwalk area, which includes suburbs such as Greenwich, New Canaan and Westport.

To address Connecticut’s lack of affordable housing, Ghio suggests changing zoning laws to encourage the construction of new housing, and particularly affordable housing, as well as expanding federal and state housing voucher programs. Others have offered additional solutions, such as new public housing or rent controls for existing rental housing.

In a statement, NLIHC president Diane Yentel noted that only a fraction of people eligible for rental assistance receive it and called for greater federal support for housing programs.

“With rents rising rapidly, homelessness worsening, and millions of families struggling to stay housed, federal investments in expanding proven solutions — like Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing — are badly needed and long overdue,” she said.

According to the NLIHC report, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts and New York are the least affordable states for renters, while Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi and South Dakota are the most affordable.