By Kevin Wilhelm
Housing is the single largest – and least flexible – expense in most family budgets. Analysts agree that housing should cost no more than 30 to 33 percent of your income. However, many Connecticut families spend as much as 50 percent of their income on housing, leaving too few dollars for other basic needs. The result – bad options and lots of stress – hurts families and has a ripple effect throughout the community.
In Middlesex County, 22 percent of homeowners and 40 percent of renters are under extreme housing burden, meaning they pay more than 35 percent of their income on housing. In Cromwell, 49 percent of renters spend more than the recommended percentage of their income on housing; 53 percent in Deep River; 51 percent in Middlefield; 44 percent in Middletown; and 63 percent in Old Saybrook.
The Partnership for Strong Communities determined that Connecticut renters have to earn an average of $23 per hour to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Connecticut without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Yet, according to the ALICE Report, released in November by Connecticut United Ways, 51 percent of all Connecticut jobs pay less than $20 per hour.
Families caught in this bind are called ALICE by United Way – Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE represents hard working families whose earnings are above the federal poverty line but below a basic cost of living threshold established in the report. More than 330,000 Connecticut households live on ALICE wages.
When housing squeezes ALICE’s budget, difficult choices get made. Families live in unsafe housing. Fast food substitutes for fresh, healthy food. Emergency room treatment replaces cheaper, preventative care. Car insurance gets dropped.
United Ways invest in solutions that ease ALICE’s stress, and we invite the entire community to join in discussing the underlying issues preventing ALICE from getting ahead. Download the ALICE Report at http://alice.ctunitedway.org to learn more.
Connecticut United Ways and the Connecticut Commission on Children are also holding a legislative forum on strategies to help ALICE families in Connecticut from 1 to 3:30 p.m. March 10 p.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. The discussion will focus on the struggles and immediate needs of ALICE families as well as long term strategies and systems solutions that will help more hard working families achieve financial security. Speakers will include ALICE families, legislators, business leaders, community leaders, and policy experts. Learn more at http://bit.ly/ALICEForum2015.