Webster Bank Chairman and CEO, Jim Smith. Christine Stuart photo
A coalition of housing advocates, banks, and business leaders outlined the obvious Wednesday when they launched a statewide campaign to bring the cost of housing within reach for tens of thousands of Connecticut workers.
Just how bad is Connecticut’s affordable housing crisis? HOMEConnecticut found many families earning a median income can not qualify for a mortgage to purchase a home at today’s sale price in 157 out of 169 municipalities. In 71 percent of those cities and towns the gap between the median income and the median sales price was more than $10,000. That’s up from 59 percent in 2004 when 102 out of 169 towns were unaffordable for many residents, according to the group’s report. In 2005, the 12 communities considered affordable in the report included Bolton, Plymouth, Windsor, Hampton, Coventry, Ashford, South Windsor, Marlborough, Tolland, Burlington, Hebron, and Andover. The lack of affordable housing should be a “flagship issue” in the debate on how to generate economic growth in the state, Jim Smith, Webster Bank Chairman and CEO, said. While the legislature focused on job creation this past session, it neglected to tackle the lack of affordable housing and how much of a threat it is to attracting new business and labor to the state. “We can see it in our employment numbers,” Smith said. In the 11-minute video the group unveiled Wednesday, real estate agent, Paul Scalzo, recounts how there was a company looking to move some of its engineers, paid $45,000 to $50,000, from California to Connecticut. “None of them took the job because none of them could take the job”, Scalzo said. “Compared to the housing they had where they came from, they couldn’t make the move, not one.” Click here to watch a copy of the video from the group’s web site. In addition to research, the group seeks to develop a four-part plan, which would offer planning help to municipalities and create incentives for municipalities to create new affordable housing supply. Andrea Pereira, program director for the Local Initiatives Support Corp., said affordable housing is more beautiful than what many people think of when they think of affordable housing. “Affordable housing today isn’t ‘the projects’,” she said.Luis Caban, executive director of Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, said 47 percent of employers in the state do not pay a housing wage based on the assumption that no more than 30 percent of an individual’s income should be used for housing. “It’s always been a moral imperative that every resident of Connecticut deserves a safe, secure, affordable place to live,” he said. The group’s last two goals include expanding finance tools for developers to make it easier for them to leverage private funds and smooth out the regulatory delays that deter development. William Cibes, chairman of HOMEConnecticut coalition, said the group will study trends and offer solutions to municipal officials and the state legislature when it reconvenes in January.