The Chatham developmen
Chatham is a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Project Based Voucher development. (Contributed photo)
SHENAE DRAUGHN
SHENAE DRAUGHN

I often hear from residents, “It means a lot for me to live in Connecticut, but I know I have to leave.”

This sentiment isn’t heard just from residents at the lowest income levels but from anyone paying more than 30% of their income in housing costs. Often lower-income residents in Connecticut choose between housing and necessities, and at some point, they choose to leave.

Connecticut is in a housing crisis, as is much of the nation. The income gap in the state is ever-growing, and the need to keep people in the state is more important than ever. According to U.S. Census data, Connecticut has lost a net of 30,973 residents in the last six years. Since 2010, 200,291 Connecticut residents have left for other states. Many of the individuals exiting Connecticut cited the increasing cost of housing as the main reason for their relocation. Though there was a population increase during the pandemic, soaring housing costs continue to be one of the main reasons people move away from Connecticut.

Given this data, there are many ways to address the issue of housing in this state, but it will take every municipality and the state government to work together. State politicians have a solution to the crisis in front of them: House Bill 6430: An Act Concerning Housing Authority Jurisdiction. HB 6430 opens up arbitrary borders placed on public housing authorities preventing them from bringing their expertise at building quality, inclusive, affordable housing to other municipalities. They don’t get to play by special rules, but they do get to compete on an even playing field with other housing developers.

For far too long in Connecticut, cities have faced the housing crisis alone. If housing authorities could take their expertise, services, compassion and work alongside municipalities outside their traditional borders, we all win.

Our New Haven delegation has been outstanding in their support, but it takes all of us to fix a housing crisis, not just the delegations of the most impacted cities. The towns surrounding cities like New Haven must be part of the solution.

Despite what critics will have you believe, HB 6430 does not change a single zoning law. It simply allows developers like the Housing Authority of New Haven to compete fairly with other developers in surrounding communities, following the same zoning laws that everyone else is subjected to. HB 6430 was proposed to support housing authorities – that already act as developers  – in competing beyond the municipality in which they were created.

There is no advantage given to housing authorities. This bill strictly allows housing authorities to propose affordable and accessible housing within a 10-mile radius of their home base in high opportunity locations.

We know what we are doing, we know how to build housing, and we can compete. Groups like Elm City Communities have the know-how and the track record to close this housing gap in Connecticut.

We have learned that just setting a goal of 10% affordable housing stock for our suburban neighbors doesn’t work, even when they reach that target. Consider the Greater New Haven region. Towns in the South Central region that are currently below the 10% threshold would need an additional 7,000 units to reach that goal. Even with that 7,000 units, according to a Fair Share analysis for the region, there would still be a gap of 25,000 units to support the lowest income, severely housing-burdened families.

One-third of applications for housing to the New Haven Housing Authority are from residents currently residing outside of the city’s borders. Why is it New Haven’s responsibility alone then?

Suburban communities can no longer sit on the sidelines while residents are being squeezed out of housing options dealing with the crushing cost of living in Connecticut. These residents that can not find affordable housing leave. They may not want to, but they have to because, as a state, we have failed. A declining population, because a variety of economic groups can’t afford to live here, leads to a failing state. Why has it been impossible to find an equitable solution?

Many of these residents seeking affordable housing work on the frontlines as teachers and medical professionals. And yet, our state leaders are completely fine with the reality of not providing adequate housing for those that provide us the most. This has been especially evident during this past year while working through a pandemic.

We want to help. We want your support to build a better, more equitable Connecticut together.

HB 6430 – An Act Concerning Housing Authority Jurisdiction is readying for a vote in Connecticut’s state General Assembly. If you support smart growth for Connecticut, then support H.B. 6430. We cannot wait another year or biennium to see action on this issue, and the General Assembly has a moral obligation to act and support those who need it the most.

Support for HB 6430 will create a way forward in creating much-needed, new affordable housing in Connecticut. Legislators still have the real opportunity to pass meaningful housing reform this session. Let’s not miss the moment.

Shenae Draughn is the Interim President of Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven and formerly the Senior Vice President of The Glendower Group, an instrumentality of the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.