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Connecticut’s Housing Scene Earns High Marks in National Scorecard

29 October 2013

Christine Palm is the Communications Director for the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

Now that the government shutdown is over, we can all go back to worrying about the other bugaboos of economic security. To be sure, whether it’s the balance in one’s personal checkbook, or an entire generation’s job prospects, economic security is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

So last month, the General Assembly’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) recently brought Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a Washington-based independent think-tank, to Connecticut to report on its new “Economic Security Scorecard” – a tool that ranks states according to how their public policy affects the economic security of working women and families. As the lead state agency in Connecticut for WOW research, the PCSW convened a roundtable of policy makers and stakeholders to hear the results. How did Connecticut rank?

The Nutmeg State came in with an overall grade of C+. But, hey, over-achievers:  Don’t despair. We actually ranked 6th in the nation, so if WOW had used a Bell Curve system like that easy marker you hoped would be your new 7th grade math teacher, we would definitely have gotten an A. Feel better? But before you breathe too deep a sigh of relief, know this: Connecticut’s rank reflects the paltry state of affairs in most of the other 49 states; only Washington State earned a B- (no one came close to a real A).

Or, as WOW’s National Projects Director Matt Unrath puts it: “The fact that so few states earned a grade above C demonstrates that no states are employing a comprehensive strategy to meet the challenges facing working families.”

It’s no real surprise that our public policies outstripped those of places like Utah and Mississippi, which came in dead last with a D+. But we can take pride in the fact that Connecticut tied with Vermont and did slightly better than New York, Maine and New Jersey.

It’s instructive to take a closer look at how WOW came up with their metrics. The group considered more than 20 key policy areas within five basic elements of economic security: income, job quality, supports, education and training, and savings and assets. Connecticut gets high marks for policies such as paid sick leave (A+) and real estate tax relief (B+), but stumbles when it comes to child and dependent care credit (F, because we don’t have one) and workforce development (D+).

But here’s one of the nice surprises tucked inside this mixed bag of a report card: Connecticut earned an “A” when it comes to what WOW calls “Housing Preservation.” This grade, which puts us third in the nation in that category, is due to the fact that we have three housing trust funds with dedicated funding sources.

They are: The Connecticut Community Investment Act, which provides increased funding for open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation and affordable housing; the Interest on Real Estate Brokers Trust Account program, which was established to provide mortgage assistance for low- or moderate-income families; and The Connecticut Housing Trust Fund, which is funded by proceeds from the sale of the state’s general obligation bonds. The fund is used to encourage the development of affordable housing, provide critical “gap” financing in the form of loans and grants to build housing for low- and moderate-income working families, and leverage other state and federal funds.

“Connecticut's commitment to housing preservation is critical because of the high cost of housing in Connecticut. The data shows that affordable housing is one of the most critical factors for helping families move up and out of poverty,”  said Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), who was at the roundtable.

At a time when so much of the nation’s public policy seems to be turning away from the interests of financially insecure groups – especially women – it’s good to know Connecticut has its house in fairly good order. 

Christine Palm is the Communications Director for the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

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