Affordable housing: The key to healthy communities

Expanding Connecticut’s stock of affordable housing is a smart solution to an important problem our state faces. Connecticut is the sixth most expensive state for housing. Nearly 50% of all Connecticut renters (250,000 people) pay more than is affordable (30% of their income) on housing. A growing body of research attests to the fact that safe and stable housing is the fundamental basis for a healthy and productive life. Children do not learn well if they lack a stable home. Adults are less able to be productive, and more likely to be ill, if they lack adequate housing. Our communities pay over and over through our public systems for these negative side effects of a lack of affordable housing. In these tight fiscal times, we cannot afford wasteful public spending. We can help solve this problem by increasing the stock of affordable housing through inclusionary zoning.

The Connecticut Department of Housing has proposed a statewide inclusionary zoning bill that would require a percentage of units in a newly created development to qualify as affordable housing. Ensuring that all new development includes affordable housing will allow us to meet our state’s pressing need for more affordable housing.

Connecticut has made great strides in our efforts to end homelessness. We are one of only three states to end veteran homelessness. We are a national leader in efforts to end the most severe and costly form of homelessness, the long-term homelessness of those with severe disabling conditions, like mental illness (which we call “chronic homelessness”). Through our work, we see every day the transformative power of housing.  Families falling apart due to the stress and trauma of homelessness can pull together if they have safe, affordable housing. A parent can get and keep a job, kids can focus on school rather than worrying about where they will sleep at night. When provided adequate housing and support, people who have long struggled with homelessness — cycling in and out of expensive systems like emergency services, hospitals, and jails — can find stability and achieve a new level of health.  

The pivotal importance of housing as the launchpad for a productive, healthy life is not just about our most vulnerable population facing homelessness. According to the United Way of Connecticut’s ALICE study, 38% of Connecticut households either live in absolute poverty (11%) or under the threshold of “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” (27%). These ALICE households have earnings above the federal poverty level but below a basic cost-of-living threshold. And among the greatest costs they face every month? Housing.

Connecticut has made tremendous headway in recent years to expand the stock of affordable housing — but more is needed. To continue our successful state efforts to end homelessness, we must have a sufficient base of affordable housing. To ensure that our residents — from children in ALICE families to struggling, low-income singles who staff our service sector — have safe and decent places to live and can be productive contributors to Connecticut, we need more affordable housing.

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) is a statewide organization representing more than 75 providers and partners implementing data-driven best practices to end homelessness in Connecticut.

Opening Doors-Fairfield County is the collaborative framework for more than 125 nonprofits working together to end homelessness in Fairfield County.

Lisa Tepper Bates is executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. David Rich is co-chairman of Opening Doors-Fairfield County.

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  • Blargrifth

    Promoting affordable housing is fine, but forcing people to build it is a terrible idea. Regulations deter growth, which is the opposite of what we want here, and Connecticut cannot be telling people what to do with their private property.

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