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Fairfield County residents earning $100,000 considered low income, study finds

FILE, 20222: With carts full of donated food, Aida Rivera rolls through a BJ’s in Fairfield while getting supplies for the community refrigerator she operates outside the Kingdom Builders Impact Ministries chapel.
Mark Mirko
/
Connecticut Public
FILE, 20222: With carts full of donated food, Aida Rivera rolls through a BJ’s in Fairfield while getting supplies for the community refrigerator she operates outside the Kingdom Builders Impact Ministries chapel. While families who earn a low income in Fairfield County make significantly more than most residents across the nation, they are still struggling, according to a study by MarketWatch Guides.

Connecticut’s wealth gap is being brought into focus by a new report, which defined what it means to be a low income resident in Fairfield County.

While families who earn a low income in Fairfield County make significantly more than most residents across the nation, they are still struggling, according to a study by MarketWatch Guides.

The study looked at U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data.

A family of four in Fairfield County with a household income of $100,000 annually is considered low income, according to the report. These families are still struggling to make ends meet, according to Claudia Phillips, who works with MarketWatch.

“[It’s] very different than most of the rest of the country, where that low income threshold is closer to $50,000 or less for a four-person household,” Phillips said.

HUD sets income limits that determine eligibility for assisted housing programs, such as the Section 8 voucher program and senior and assisted living.

It also develops income limits based on Median Family Income estimates and Fair Market Rent area definitions for each county.

In Fairfield County, the high cost of living and a lag in income increases contributed to the MarketWatch rating.

“A high cost of living and not having enough income,” Phillips said. “Those areas that have probably a higher property value, it's more expensive to move there or live there, things like job availability.”

The region’s high cost of living makes it more difficult to stretch state and federal aid dollars, Sean Ghio, from local housing advocacy nonprofit Partnership for Strong Communities, said.

“Because this place is so expensive, I can get, say, 10 units of housing that's affordable to really, really low income people, or I could get 20 units of housing that's affordable to moderately low income people,” Ghio said.

Residents earning much less than $100,000 are struggling to afford housing, but families earning six figures are all struggling, Ghio said.

“The HUD numbers are already very high, so to see some, suggesting that they're actually even higher, reflects how difficult it is to find housing in Fairfield County,” Ghio said. “What it means is many families, pretty high up on the income scale, are struggling to find homes, and it's only harder the less income you make.”

Enough housing, of all types and income affordability, isn’t available, according to Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity Chief Initiative Officer Melissa Kaplan-Macey. Supply and demand is also driving up the cost of existing housing options.

“There's so much wealth and the cost of housing has increased so much that the pressure on folks who are making a working wage that you may traditionally have thought shouldn't be struggling in that way they are, because it's just, it's simple cost and supply and demand,” Kaplan-Macey said.

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.

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