Over the past two decades housing costs across the region have skyrocketed while incomes have stagnated. This imbalance has been particularly acute in the Connecticut counties in the RPA region (Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven) where more than ⅓ of residents spend more than ⅓ of their income on housing.
What happened? A Jobs and Housing Mismatch.
- Connecticut hasn’t fully recovered from the 2008 recession; job growth has been limited and weighted towards lower paying jobs in the service sector. On the housing side of the equation, many municipalities are failing to encourage multifamily and affordable housing development. That means less housing overall, which drives up prices, which makes homes too expensive for the people who live in these communities.
- The traditional suburban model of office parks and single family homes is no longer working for Connecticut. People used to go where the jobs are. Now, jobs go where the people are – and they’re leaving suburban Connecticut. And many of Connecticut’s cities, with the notable exception of Stamford, continue to struggle to attract jobs. So for low and middle income residents of all ages, homes in the suburbs where they work as landscapers, home health aides and teachers are unaffordable and long commutes are inevitable.
This lack of affordable housing for low and moderate income families near jobs in Connecticut has serious consequences for the state’s economy. The Governor and the Department of Housing both recognize that if land use patterns in Connecticut don’t evolve to address the changing dynamic in the housing and job markets, the state will continue to lose jobs and people to more dynamic places where homes are more affordable. And as demand for homes on large lots far from jobs and transit declines and these homes continue to sit on the market longer and ultimately sell for less, municipalities will lose property tax revenue as well.
Two bills being considered this session, HB 5045 and HB 5482 would equip municipalities with the tools they need to promote housing choice and economic diversity in communities. In this time of budget crisis and economic challenge, we applaud Connecticut for introducing these pieces of legislation, but it can’t stop there. State lawmakers must continue to push these bills out of Committee for a vote by the legislature to ensure that ALL Connecticut residents have access to healthy and affordable housing. This is not just about a moral imperative to do the right thing by creating more housing for more people in more places; it is a critical economic imperative for the state.