On Thursday, April 20th, the Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC) hosted a webinar focused on expanding access and funding for the state Rental Assistance Program (RAP). The goal was to provide attendees with an overview of the state’s Rental Assistance Program, highlight the deep positive impact housing subsidies have on families’ housing stability and quality of life, and to discuss opportunities to expand RAP to reach more households in the state.
Connecticut is facing an affordable housing crisis, and our lowest income families are paying the price. To put this crisis into perspective, for every 100 extremely low-income households in CT, there are only 37 rental units available and affordable to them. More than a quarter of CT families who rent their home are severely burdened by housing costs, spending more than 50% of their income on rent.
The housing crisis in our state is rooted in racial injustice. Connecticut’s history of redlining has left it as one of the most racially segregated states in the country. Shockingly, while Black renters in CT make up only 12% of the state’s population, 56% of Black renters are burdened by housing costs. Addressing racial injustices in the state requires prioritizing and providing immediate support to those at most risk of housing insecurity or homelessness.
The affordable housing crisis demands a multitude of policies and strategies that support the creation and preservation of affordable housing in all communities, those that support equitable access and protections for families, and those that create affordability, like the Rental Assistance Program.
Presenters included Steve DiLella, Director of the Individual and Family Support Programs with the CT Department of Housing (DOH), William Johnson Jr., a landlord with Diversified Management Solutions, LLC and Tina Robinson, a CT resident and RAP voucher holder.
During the discussion, participants learned that:
The need for RAP has grown significantly over the last decade, with approximately 6,700-6,800 households currently using the program and between 2,500 – 2,700 on the waitlist. The waitlist is not set to open in the near future, but those next in line on the waitlist will be notified as soon as a voucher is available to help them secure a more stable housing situation.
Though the waitlist for RAP is presently closed, DOH is working to merge the Section 8 and RAP waitlists to streamline the process. If they get approval from HUD to merge the lists, the waitlist might be re-opened sooner than expected.
RAP not only has a positive impact on people’s lives, safety, and wellbeing, but it also has a positive impact on CT’s economy by saving money through keeping people housed and avoiding the need for costly crisis interventions.
There is not enough funding for RAP to meet the need! The program needs more funding to meet an increasing need, especially with the rising cost of rent, inflation, and stagnating wages.
This year, the Partnership for Strong Communities and the HOMEConnecticut Campaign have advocated the legislature and governor to expand RAP by an additional $72 million for the next two fiscal years of the state budget. Currently, both the governor’s budget and the appropriations budget do not reflect any increase for RAP. It is important that legislators know that for every $1 million the state invests in RAP can provide housing security to 70 Connecticut families.
There is still more work to be done to expand RAP, and advocacy efforts must continue. Even if the number of affordable units that are developed increases significantly, it will not be enough to support all families in keeping their finances, health and home stable. RAP serves as an essential tool in keeping families stably housed.
To hear more from our panelists and to view the full recording of the webinar, click here.
Additional information and resources related to RAP:
Click here to sign up to be notified when the RAP waitlist reopens.
Click here to stay connected to Partnership for Strong Communities’ network and learn about future opportunities for learning or to participate in advocacy efforts.
Click here to view an op-ed by PSC’s Interim Executive Director, Chelsea Ross, on the need to expand the rental assistance program.
In December 2022, PSC hosted a comprehensive forum discussing the different kinds of housing subsidy programs that exist at both the state and federal level in CT. To learn more about key distinctions between state and federally funded housing subsidies, click here.