Local zoning regulations have a huge impact on shaping a community’s economic stability and residents’ quality of life. They also impact the development of affordable housing. At Monday’s Partnership for Strong Communities iForum, a packed house learned that economic success and affordable housing are not mutually exclusive.
Longtime proponent of affordable housing Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman told the crowd, “Zoning is what builds up towns.” At the same time she cited the critical need to be able to build up walls people can afford to live in. “This will take all towns working together.”
Evonne Klein, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Housing, was next to speak, sharing the good news that 20,000 units of affordable housing have been created or are underway in state in the last six years. “The administration understands the importance of funding, preserving, and rehabilitating affordable housing the state.”
Fifty-one percent of all jobs in the state pay less than $20 per hour, yet Connecticut is the seventh most expensive state based on housing costs.
How does zoning affect the availability of affordable housing? Many factors, from restrictions on multi-family housing or population density to required lot size and setbacks, can work at cross purposes with those wishing to develop safe, affordable places for families to raise children.
In many Connecticut towns, it is often the case that firefighters, teachers, and retail service workers cannot afford to live where they work. It is also the case that working Millennials can’t find housing they can afford and are leaving the state. Many zoning professionals relate that they get push-back from residents concerned that affordable housing will diminish their property values. Studies have shown, however, that multi-family developments do not affect property value, or contribute to overcrowding of schools, as is commonly believed.
Those towns already developing affordable housing have learned that it can positively impact the grand list, bring more trade to local businesses, boost declining school enrollments, and still visually fit with the town’s character.
There is still a crying need for affordable housing in the state. At the Liberty Bank Foundation, we’ll continue to support our community partners in advocating for the thoughtful and appropriate inclusion of homes in every town that address the needs of every town’s workers.