Thank you for your series of excellent reports about Connecticut’s urgent need for more affordable housing. I have lived in many states and have been a renter in communities near colleges and universities —places that accept without demur multi-unit apartments housing university staff and teachers. This rental housing was built by private initiative, not by towns.
Yes, there is the social factor. Now living in Litchfield, I see discrimination against multi-unit affordable housing: i.e., renters. There is an automatic counterargument that allowing multi-unit housing will invite in drug dealers from urban areas, or at the very least “bring the neighborhood down” by noise, kids’ bikes being left on front lawns, rusty autos on cement blocks…the list of undesirable behavior is unending.
Perhaps we could use the term “early career housing” instead of “affordable housing.” Early career housing is for tradespeople, healthcare workers, teachers, police, firefighters, even those college graduates with crushing student debt who cannot afford to buy a home.
But, the legislature’s one-size-fits-all reform of zoning laws ignores a physical barrier in rural towns that is expensive to fix… whether affordable housing is the province of towns or private initiative.
Rural towns like Litchfield, 56 square miles, have little water and sewer service outside the center of town. In Litchfield, our boroughs do have water and sewer but are already maximally built and small: the Borough of Litchfield is 1.5 square miles, and the Borough of Bantam is one square mile.
Streets outside Litchfield’s borough boundaries could support scattered-site, multi-unit housing, but the prerequisite may be the addition of water and sewer service, and perhaps upgrading the town’s waste-water-disposal capacity.
Will the Connecticut legislature consider these factors in identifying towns that fail to have the requisite percentage of affordable housing?
Solution? Would the federal infrastructure bill just passed offer funding for expanding water and sewer, not just upgrading failing systems?
Carol Powers lives in Litchfield.