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CT ranks worst state in the U.S. for renters, study finds

A construction worker hammers away at the formwork for the foundation of a building that will be part of Oak Grove - an affordable housing complex in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A construction worker hammers away at the formwork for the foundation of a building that will be part of Oak Grove - an affordable housing complex in Norwalk, Connecticut.

In the midst of the housing crisis comes more troubling news for tenants, Connecticut is ranked as the worst place in the nation for renters.

The state’s high unemployment rate and low apartment availability contributed to the low ranking in a study by consumer review company, Consumer Affairs. The report was the result of an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor.

At 4.7%, Connecticut’s unemployment rate is above the national average of 3.9% as of April, and many renters are paying more than 30% of their monthly income on rent, according to the report.

North Dakota was ranked as the most renter-friendly state due to its high vacancy rate and low rent of less than $850 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

Connecticut was behind in every category assessed, according to Rebecca Sowell, one of the analysts behind the report.

“In all the different metrics that we looked at, there's no category where Connecticut excels,” Sowell said. “Whereas those more expensive places like New York, California, Hawaii, they're not great in terms of affordability, but they do excel and other metrics, whether that's unemployment rate or vacancy rate.”

One of the metrics weighed most heavily was the average percentage of income tenants spent on rent monthly, Sowell said. Nationwide, renters spent an average of 31% of their monthly income on rent. In Connecticut, the average is 32%, Sowell said.

However, nearly 55% of Connecticut renters pay up to about 35% of their monthly income on rent.

“We're playing the cards that were dealt, there's not really much I think, individual people can do about this,” Sowell said. “It's better to put more pressure on a state and national level, to have more options for affordable housing, increases in wages, to account for the rising housing costs.”

States were ranked based on several criteria including cost of living, median rent for a two-bedroom apartment and what percentage of apartments were constructed after the year 2000.

Fixing the state’s housing crisis extends beyond creating more units, and includes updating aging apartments, Connecticut Tenants Union Vice President Luke Melonakos-Harrison said.

“So often, the conversation is limited to building new housing, period,” Melonakos-Harrison said. “That's going to solve everything. And that has got to shift, because that's clearly not enough.”

Connecticut’s aging housing stock and a housing vacancy rate of 3.5% are exacerbating the state’s housing crisis, Melonakos-Harrison said.

“That is a perfect storm for a huge portion of tenants living in slum conditions at rents that they can barely afford or they can't afford,” Melonakos-Harrison said.

Less than 15% of Connecticut’s renter-occupied apartments were constructed in the last quarter of a century, according to the study.

While the state doesn’t have the highest average rent costs for a two-bedroom apartment, the low vacancy rate makes it hard to find reasonably priced rentals.

It costs an average of about $1,400 to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Connecticut, according to the report. Arkansas has the lowest rent cost at $834.

States that ranked in the top 10 had low percentages of household incomes going toward rent, cheaper rent costs, more apartments built after 2000 and were more likely to have tenant-friendly eviction laws, according to the report.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.