Should Connecticut prioritize constructing affordable housing in economic hubs like New Haven, or exclusive towns like New Haven’s surrounding suburbs?
Two housing construction advocates offered different answers to that question at a panel organized by the Housing Authority of New Haven/Elm City Communities on Thursday night.
The panel, focused on the state’s need for more housing and how zoning reform can achieve that goal, comprised Mike Kingsella, CEO of the national housing advocacy organization Up For Growth, and Erin Boggs, executive director of the Connecticut non-profit Open Communities Alliance.
Both Boggs and Kingsella outlined how Connecticut, like most states in the country, hasn’t been producing enough housing to keep pace with its growing population.
“Low income folks are bearing the brunt of that,” said Kingsella. Connecticut is short 140,000 affordable homes, he said, severely narrowing the options for families who can’t afford market-rate housing.
This scarcity of housing has driven up rent to the point that, as Boggs presented, 220,695 Connecticut households are allocating more than 50 percent of their income toward housing.
Both advocates pointed to zoning laws — especially regulations that restrict housing density to single-family homes — as a culprit. Zoning codes first emerged in the U.S. in the early 20th century as a tactic to explicitly maintain racial segregation. When direct racial prohibitions became illegal, Boggs and Kingsella noted, city planners began to limit the development of higher-density or more affordable housing in historically white areas.
Housing Call: Upzone Cities & Suburbs, Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent, April 17, 2023, available here