MIDDLETOWN — Middlesex United Way works toward having a community where individuals and families have safe and affordable housing. We currently support our local emergency shelter and supportive housing program, as well as homelessness prevention and affordable housing efforts.
We are actively involved in the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing & Homelessness, which is working to prevent and end homelessness, and we’re proud to support organizations like Middlesex Habitat for Humanity and The Connection’s Eddy Shelter.
It is also important to us that individuals who are looking for housing receive equal treatment and know their rights. Each year, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center develops a Connecticut’s Renters Guide named Moving Forward. This guide is designed to help individuals go through the moving process from start to finish, from planning tips before you move to resolving potential issues after the move the guide covers the process start to finish.
The guide also goes into great detail about fair housing rights and provides instruction and direction if someone feels he or she is a victim of discrimination.
The guide covers a variety of topics, beginning with defining the Fair Housing Act. Fair housing means that every person has the right to choose for themselves where to live, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex (gender), disability, religion, or whether a person has children or not.
In addition to these criteria, in Connecticut, a tenant also cannot be denied due to ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, lawful source of income (if using public services like Section 8), or gender identity and gender expression. The guide provides examples of what discrimination can look like, and provides helpful tips, including contact information of who to call if someone feels he or she is a victim of discrimination.
The moving process can be overwhelming for many, and is often predicated by other stressful life events, like starting a new job, losing a source of income, or a change in household composition. The Moving Forward guide provides helpful information and tools to assist a person in first figure out where they want to live, as well as to help assess the options they have.
The guide includes a “Self-Assessment: What am I look for?” tool to help a future renter figure out his or her priorities. There is also a checklist that helps break down what factors are most important when looking for a new home, such as location, amenities and total cost.
One of the most important decisions to make when moving is deciding where to live, as well as what type of housing to live in. The guide includes a chart that helps to explain and define categories of housing available.
Private housing is property owned by an individual or a corporation and are found by the tenant using resources such as newspapers and flyers, or searching sites like Zillow or Craigslist. Subsidized housing includes public housing, housing vouchers and subsidized apartments.
Public housing is rental housing for eligible low-income, moderate income, elderly and/or disable people. Another example of subsidized housing are housing vouchers, which pay part of the rent and include programs such as Section 8 and the Rental Assistance Payment.
You can find a list of agencies that have housing vouchers at chcvp.org. Subsidized apartments are housing owned by a private company or individual. There are homes to rent to people with low incomes at rates below the market rate.
Finding an apartment where you can afford the rent and utilities is one of the most important parts of securing a stable home. A general rule to follow is that renters should pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly gross income on rent. There is an affordability calculator online that can be used to help you determine how much you should be paying at myaprtmentmap.com/affordable_housing.
The guide then covers topics related to how you should compare apartments, tips to stay organized when making appointments and visiting apartments, and what documents you may need when filling out an application for an apartment, such as a photo ID proof of income, checkbook or money order, credit report, etc.
I think one of the most helpful part of the guide is the frequently asked questions. These questions can be found toward the end of the guide, and are extremely helpful in answering questions related to the Fair Housing Act and finding an apartment.
There is no way I will be able to share every tip, trick, and suggestion within the guide in one column. If you or someone you know is planning on moving, or wants to be better familiarized with rights as a tenant, please get a free copy of the guide by visiting ctfairhousing.org/movingforward, emailing Moving@ctfairhousing.org, or by calling 860-247-4400.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown.