Open Communities Alliance aims to confront Connecticut's long history of segregation, which has resulted in unequal access to opportunity, through improved housing policy.
A number of governmental policies promoting segregation have impacted Connecticut's current segregated status. In order to confront this history of segregation, we must recognize our history.
- Placement of public and subsidized housing. Where is subsidized housing?
- Redlining. Lenders created a rating system to assess mortgage risk by neighborhood. However, the system explicitly used race as a factor to indicate neighborhood instability. This means that people of color in these neighborhoods could not obtain a home loan, and therefore were historically unable to accumulate wealth.
- Racial covenants. Language is contained in some property deeds that explicitly bars people of color from ever occupying a specific property. (The enforcement of such language was prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelley v. Kraemer.)
- Exclusionary zoning. Zoning has been recognized as one tool to exclude people of color from neighborhoods and towns. Because people of color are disproportionately lower income, towns can effectively exclude people of color by requiring larger minimum lot sizes, lower maximum density (units per acre), and a number of other requirements.
The impact of each of these is still felt today, though only some of these policies are still used today (see below).
Where are we now?
Today, Connecticut is incredibly racially, ethnically, and economically segregated. This isolation has a profound impact on the opportunities available to Connecticut residents. Open Communities Alliance has analyzed and mapped this opportunity.
Why does this matter?
Access to opportunity affects education, employment, income, health (both physical and mental), incarceration, and life outcomes generally. Because place matters so much to the resources available to each of us and because certain groups live in areas that have limited access to a range of opportunities, the Alliance has four focus areas complemented by four crosscutting themes. All of our work is undertaken with a deep understanding of how life outcomes are shaped by place and we strive the work with others to highlight these interrelationships by connecting the dots.
Supporting Housing Choice: The Alliance strives to support and expand access to affordable housing outside of lower opportunity areas including through support of mobility counseling, which links people to housing options, and fair housing education and enforcement resources. OCA creates access to opportunity housing.
Balancing Housing Subsidy Placement: At both the state and federal level housing policy limits the placement of affordable and subsidized housing outside of lower opportunity areas. Because Blacks and Latinos, on average, have lower incomes than Whites, they have a disproportionate need for such housing, but the options available to them are overwhelmingly located in lower opportunity areas. At the same time, lower opportunity areas need targeted non-housing and strategic housing investments. OCA works to promote policies that bring balance to the location of subsidized housing.
Promoting Fair Share Housing: Currently, 139 out of 169 Connecticut towns do not have 10% affordable housing as defined by state law. The Alliance works to change state and municipal structures that prevent opportunity housing from being created in thriving areas, including through innovative approaches to zoning and planning that fairly allocates affordable housing among towns. At the same time, the Alliance promotes policies that ensure that housing policy does not generate poverty concentration. OCA advocates for fair share opportunity housing.
- Advocating for More Resources for Struggling Areas: We work with partners to identify innovative approaches to revitalize under-resourced areas while providing housing choice and protecting affordability. OCA partners to help under-resourced areas.
- Data: Improve the depth, availability, and analysis of data related to fair housing, affirmatively furthering fair housing and opportunity access. See more on ideas for improving affordable housing data.
- State Planning: Make affirmatively furthering fair housing central to state planning and actions.
- Fair Housing Enforcement: Contribute to fair housing enforcement and education.
- Housing Mobility: Supporting and expanding services that provide counseling to government housing recipients on housing options in areas that are thriving.