Emerging ideas can challenge prejudicial housing rules

For those who live in such neighborhoods, large homes on large lots may seem the epitome of the American Dream. The uglier truth, however, is that too many Connecticut residents for too long have been shut out of home ownership and too many struggle to pay market-rate rents. This is largely because of restrictive zoning that encourages large-lot, single-family development. It results in much of the state’s housing being a financial pipe dream for low- and even moderate-income residents. This includes many young people who may want to live in the town in which they grew up, and those who work in such vital professions as teaching, firefighting and law enforcement.

High property costs and restrictive zoning regulations make it next to impossible, even should developers desire to do so, to build more affordable housing such as duplex and multi-family units, clustered housing or smaller homes on smaller lots.

Affordable housing in Connecticut remains overwhelmingly concentrated in urban centers and poorer communities.

Despite a more than 30-year-old law mandating that 10% of each town’s housing qualify as affordable, proposals to develop such housing consistently face stiff opposition from neighbors. Often such opposition — pointing to concerns about traffic, or a drag on property values, or increased demand for town services — is only thinly veiled racism and classism.

We’ve long advocated for municipal officials to do the right thing by supporting the development of affordable housing in their communities. We’ve also editorialized in favor of several specific development proposals in towns ranging from Old Lyme to Stonington. So, we are heartened that affordable housing advocates are again bringing the problem of Connecticut’s housing haves and have-nots to the forefront. Perhaps one of these efforts may finally provide town officials the motivation to identify appropriate places in their communities for affordable housing and to actively advocate for its development.

The Open Communities Alliance, for example, has developed what it’s calling a Fair Share Housing model. The group has calculated the specific number of affordable housing units each town in the state should work toward developing over a 10-year period. The calculations are based on a formula that looks at factors including poverty rates and median income levels and show that almost every town has much work to do.

Emerging ideas can challenge prejudicial housing rules, Editorial Board, The Day, Feb. 2nd, 2021, available here

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