On March 11, I sat in my virtual Stratford Town Council Meeting, as I usually do at my kitchen counter, anxiously anticipating the Stratford Housing Partnership’s presentation. What they revealed was a failure in our commitment to serving all Stratford residents. A striking community survey revealed 50 to 66 percent of respondents were deeply concerned about their long-term ability to afford to stay in Stratford. This revelation was the tip of the iceberg for an issue not just unique to Stratford.
There is something profoundly wrong when our seniors cannot afford property taxes and are forced to sell their homes. While this is common when people get older, there is no alternative housing available for them in Stratford as evidenced by the Stratford Housing Authority three-year waiting list for elderly units. Furthermore, our young adults and entry-level workers seek employment independence, yet they cannot afford to rent an apartment. Current homeowners are often a few paychecks away from defaulting on their mortgage. Housing insecurity, and more broadly, housing access for all residents, is not just an issue for urban communities but also suburbs, like Stratford.
We see housing at the forefront of many conversations on the local, state, and federal levels. While Stratford has chosen not to fund its Plan for Conservation and Development (POCD), our state legislature’s Planning and Development Committee has been deliberating methods to break the stalemate; subsequently, enticing local authorities to take action. Thank you to our tireless lawmakers and advocates at all levels of government.
For 11 years, a “lack of quorum” prevented Stratford from convening its Housing Partnership Committee. Historically, there was no discussion of facts, no consideration of solutions. But on March 26 it finally published “2021-2026 Housing Strategies for Stratford,” which formally validated an issue our residents experience every day – a lack of affordable housing. Moreover, the report presents a series of suggestions, interventions, solutions, and actions that we can take locally to tackle the inequities in access to housing.
Unfortunately, there is no timeline for implementing these solutions. This new report is primarily based on the successes already accomplished by other communities. For the sake of our seniors, our entry-level workers, and our insecure homeowners: Stratford must act. We can’t afford to wait any longer. Mayor Laura Hoydick, Council Chairman Chris Pia, and the Housing Partnership Committee, all eyes are on you.
Publishing a report is not a solution. Signing a resolution is not a solution. Until the Town of Stratford acts in the interests of its residents, unless our town implements local solutions to solve its local problem, then state and federal agencies may be compelled to fill this role and fight for housing for all Stratford residents.
I am absolutely an advocate of local actions that solve local problems, but housing access is an issue all throughout Connecticut, rooted in outdated zoning laws and housing codes. It is going to take all of us working together to address it. We all play a significant role in shaping a better future for all our residents. Let’s own it; let’s take action to create a Stratford where everyone has access to a good job and a sustainable place to call their home. We can do this.
Kaitlyn Shake is the Town Council Representative in Stratford’s Second Municipal District.