The state of Connecticut is in the midst of a housing crisis. According to CT Insider, Section 8 rental assistance vouchers were administered to all 45 of the state’s housing authorities, but only half of them were used.
Before you start to think that there’s rent money up for grabs in Connecticut, it’s important to understand what Section 8 rental assistance is.
Section 8, or housing choice vouchers are issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to “very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants can find housing [of their choice,] including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.”
The vouchers are distributed to qualifying Connecticut residents at the discretion of the public housing authorities (PHA’s) receiving them from the Federal government. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s most recent housing crisis isn’t due to the PHA’s not handing them out to families that needed them.
The burdens Connecticut faces with the surplus of unused rental assistance are heaviest on the tenants and prospective tenants. These people are at the mercy of outdated regulations behind the government’s rental assistance program.
Not only is the surplus of unused rental assistance vouchers due to the rules outlining their eligibility, the vouchers' value changes based on where they’re used and who wants to accept them.
Legally across the country, all landlords are required to accept rental assistance. A percentage of a landlord's rental income is typically what determines the threshold of their discretion. In Connecticut, the law currently limits landlords from accepting "new recipients" of the Section 8 housing choice vouchers.
An unstable housing market is also to blame. With the cost of living rising throughout the state, the gaps expand between economic classes which creates a more competitive housing market for rental assistance recipients.
Recipients of the rental assistance have a choice in where they want to live and use their housing choice vouchers. Contrary to the laws, landlords know they have security in receiving payment when they select tenants with a higher credit score or the ability to make rent. Voucher recipients have no help navigating the market and are usually the ones who are passed over when applying to move into places.
With a backlog of applications for rental assistance in Connecticut, and mounting complaints now being filed against housing authorities for not assisting the recipients with finding a home, the urgency in the unused money that should have gone toward people’s rents is without a doubt a crisis.