Open Communities Alliance's September 2017 Out of Balance report shines a light on the opportunity gap in Connecticut and the role subsidized housing policy plays in generating and reinforcing it. Building on the work of historians and others who have documented the long history of government-sponsored segregation, this report maps "opportunity" by census tract and overlays the locations of government subsidized housing across a number of programs. The report concludes that the state needs continued investments in under-resourced, "lower" opportunity areas while adjusting housing program priorities and addressing exclusionary zoning in order to bring geographic balance to subsidized housing locations.
The report's revelations are stunning and provide an important guide for housing policy moving forward.
Explaining the Opportunity Gap. Approximately half of Latinos and Blacks in Connecticut reside in the 2% of the land area of the state assessed less likely to have access to opportunity structures like high performing schools, safe streets, and employment opportunities. Only 9% of Whites live in such areas. This deep level of segregation and opportunity isolation undergirds the web of structures that create some of the deepest racial opportunity gaps in the country in educational, employment, health, and criminal justice outcomes.
Location of Subsidized Housing. The report also reveals that for most programs analyzed upwards of 85% of government subsidized units are located in moderate, low or very low opportunity areas -- areas less likely to provide access to fully-resourced schools and social networks that lead to jobs. The findings also highlight the dearth of data on government subsidized housing made available to the public on a regular basis.
Getting this right is essential for all of us: Connecticut has an educational achievement gap that hurts children and threatens our economic competitiveness. Where a child lives and goes to school has a direct and significant impact on that child’s life chances – because we rely on property taxes to fund schools and because the opportunities available to children vary so widely among towns. One way to address this challenge is to invest further in schools and services in under-resourced communities. Another way to address this challenge is to make sure that we balance our state investments to create more affordable housing in towns with greater opportunity, to give more children a better chance to succeed. In Connecticut, we have to do both. We cannot keep asking our cities to shoulder all the burden of ameliorating poverty; and we cannot keep asking our children to wait.
The goal of this report is to engage a broader array of citizens and policymakers in exploring the causes of and solutions to the opportunity divide. The data show that, despite our aspirations and shared goals for fairness, housing segregation persists at an extremely high level in Connecticut and denies opportunities to children and families. We can work together to create a more balanced plan for subsidized housing in Connecticut.