Why advocates say CT is experiencing ‘housing crisis’

Advocates believe Connecticut is in the midst of a housing crisis. They say the cost of housing at all levels is pricing out renters and potential owners who only a short time ago could afford their homes.

People are forced to move, these advocates say, because the apartment they could afford two years ago has now become far too expensive. For the first time in years, this has increased housing instability and homelessness in Connecticut.

“There's no other way to talk about what we're experiencing than to call it a housing crisis,” said Peter Harrison, of the advocacy organization Desegregate CT.

That “crisis” looks different in each part of the state, Harrison said. In some places, it’s a question of the cost of existing housing rising to levels residents can’t afford.

“That housing crisis means people that live in, grew up in that town can't afford to move back, seniors can't afford to stay,” Harrison said.

In other communities, new apartments are in high-cost, luxury buildings.

“In places like Stamford, which really over the last 10 years have been building a lot of homes, there's just a totally different set of concerns and that's gentrification displacement,” Harrison said.

Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, director of operations for the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, told a story to illustrate the problem. One Connecticut town, seeing that there was a lack of affordable housing, decided to encourage potential homeowners to seek loans through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

To qualify for a CHFA loan, as they are called, the property value must be below a certain threshold. “Naturally, it should have limits on how much you can spend on a home if you're going to purchase that home with a subsidized mortgage,” Darby-Hudgens said.

But, when officials looked at property values, “there wouldn't be a single home within the town,” she said, “that qualified for a mortgage based on the cost of housing.”

New building

The ongoing pandemic played a role, according to Darby-Hudgens, but it’s a situation that has been brewing for a long time, and the lack of housing stock plays a big role. She said it goes “back to traditional economics.”

“We don't develop housing,” Darby-Hudgens said. “So we don't solve this traditional supply and demand the way traditional market forces would.”

She said building permit data demonstrates the lack of available housing.

Sometime in the mid-2000s, Connecticut developers largely stopped building.

New building permits in Connecticut hit a 60-year low in 2011, when there were only 3,173 permits filed. In 2020, there were more, 5,471 permits, but still well below 1960 when there were 15,098 permits filed, or the high point in 1986 when there were 27,730 permits filed.

“It comes particularly kind of post recession, where our housing permitting just kind of collapsed, the industry kind of collapsed,” Harrison said. “So, even though the population really isn't growing, there is still shifting and household creation, and we just simply do not have the housing stock for that sort of natural ebb and flow.”

That, Darby-Hudgens said, is driving prices higher.

“We live in a state that doesn't develop,” she said. “We don't develop housing in Connecticut.”


The rising costs of rent and lack of new housing inventory is resulting in a record number of evictions Darby-Hudgens said.

“Housing providers are able to get significantly more money per unit than they were prior to even just a couple of years ago,” she said. “And the easiest or the most efficient way to raise the rent is to turn over your tenancy.”

During the height of the pandemic, there were protections against evictions, though they never really ceased.

According to data from the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, not only are the number of evictions in Connecticut beyond pre-pandemic levels, they are on track to be higher than they’ve perhaps ever been.

That database only goes back to 2017, when there were 20,597 evictions, an average of about 1,700 evictions a month.

This March, there were 2,501 evictions which, according to Darby-Hudgens, “puts the state on pace to have 30,000 eviction filings this year.”

Homelessness and instability

Evonne Klein was the first selectman of Darien before she ran the state Department of Housing. Now she runs the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

According to Klein, homelessness increased in 2021 for the first time in years.

Klein’s organization tracks people who enrolled in any homelessness assistance program, such as a shelter. The data shows homelessness decreased every year from 2014 on until 2021.

There were 7,757 people enrolled in homelessness programs in the state in 2020, and 8,321 in 2021, a year-over year increase of 564 people.

Though that’s down considerably from 2014 when there were 13,364 people identified as homeless the increase is concerning, particularly because it could increase again, Klein said.

“It could go up, yes, because of evictions,” Klein said. “If anybody remembers their old psychology, you know Maslow's hierarchy of needs? What's one of the most basic needs that a human being has? It's shelter, it's a home.”

Those numbers, Klein explained, don’t tell the whole story. She said about half of the individuals who sign up for homelessness programs find a place to stay within two weeks.

Klein’s mission is to end homelessness in Connecticut, a mission she believes she can achieve, but that is hampered in part by the lack of available housing inventory.

It was nearly 100 years ago, Klein said, that the state passed the Zoning Enabling Act, which she said, “requires that every municipality in the state of Connecticut must zone for multi-family and must provide housing for people of low to moderate income. Every municipality in this state has a requirement to do so.”

The problem, she said, is this hasn’t happened.

“So if, for 100 years, municipalities were building affordable housing along with market-rate housing, I'd like to think our need would be very low, like we would have the housing we would need for folks of all income levels” Klein said. “But that's not what's happened. We still have this tremendous need for housing for people of all income levels, especially those on the lower income scale.”

Beyond homelessness, the issue is creating a problem of housing instability, Harrison said. He’s also currently looking for housing in Connecticut, and he’s flexible on location.

“I kind of want to stay up in the Farmington Valley, it's close to a Hartford, close to my family, but there’s just no rental housing stock and housing prices are insane,” he said.

He’s not alone. Harrison said many thousands of people in Connecticut may have a roof over their heads but are unsure about their long-term ability to have safe housing.

“There is this wave of people that don't necessarily come off in in shelters or housing assistance, that are incredibly housing insecure,” Harrison said. “You've got young people staying at home, living in the basement or childhood house, you've got families doubling up tripling up, and multi-generations in shared living circumstances.”


According to Darby-Hudgens, you can’t talk about the state’s housing crisis without talking about race.

“The other reality in Connecticut is that when you look at who rents their homes, and who owns their homes, 80 percent of people of color rent their homes in comparison to only 30 percent of white people,” she said.

The end result, she said, is to perpetuate segregation through economic means. Darby-Hudgens said it did not happen recently, but is the result of “decision after decision after decision after decision that was made and housing and land use policy to disadvantage people of color from being able to build wealth and housing.”

“As a result of 100-plus years of discriminatory housing policy, we have perpetuated such economic violence on people of color, that when we make land use decisions that exclude diversity of housing types, we are essentially saying that we are excluding all folks of color from certain communities,” she said. “We are perpetuating segregation with exclusionary land use.”

“The argument that people don't get to live wherever they want to live is simply racism,” Darby-Hudgens said. “That person is saying white people get to live wherever they want to live, but people of color do not.”