Connecticut is facing a series of crises. We are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of segregation, income inequality, housing affordability, infrastructure and economic mobility — and in the bottom half of states for fiscal stability. Over 208,000 families in Connecticut earning less than half of the median income (about $50,000 for a family of four) are paying over half of their income or more towards housing costs. The extent to which COVID-19 has ravaged Black and Latino communities is a palpable reflection of this inequality.
These current crises are in large part the result of federal, state and local government policies that fostered and perpetuate housing segregation. These policies include redlining, which started in the 1930s and was not technically banned until 1968, limited government-backed home loans and insurance to “stable” neighborhoods that deliberately excluded areas with significant Black and Latino populations. Scholars attribute a significant portion of today’s 90 percent wealth gap between Blacks and Latinos, on the one hand, and whites, on the other, directly to the home appreciation experienced by white families under this discriminatory government policy.
In a state like Connecticut, where most predominantly white suburbs, acting under the color of state law, require housing lots to be very large, effectively ban most multifamily homes, and deprioritize infrastructure development that would allow for a greater diversity of housing (like sewers), access to the rich resources these communities provide remains out of reach for many Black and Latino families.
So here we are in Connecticut in 2021, emerging from an era when our differences were used to separate us rather than strengthen us and, for many, it is a moment of awakening of racial consciousness after the murder of George Floyd. How do we get out of this mess? Next week, the Connecticut Legislature will hold a hearing on an innovative proposal, Fair Share Planning and Zoning (Raised Bill 6611), that can tackle multiple challenges at once while honoring municipal local control.
Opinion: Fair Share Zoning the right thing, the smart thing, Erin Boggs, CT Post, Mar. 12, 2021, available here