Opposition to multifamily housing runs deep in Connecticut’s suburbs, and it’s a disaster for the state’s economy. But it’s also a disaster for equity, and one of the most offensive parts of the anti-homes agenda is the implication that children who live in apartments are a burden on our town’s schools, not kids who deserve equal opportunities.

We should reject this kind of anti-family, anti-homes rhetoric and acknowledge that children who live in apartments are children, too, and they’re just as entitled to a great neighborhood and fantastic education. 

Thomas Broderick

Article 8 Section 1 of the Connecticut Constitution guarantees that “there shall always be free public elementary and secondary schools in the state,” yet towns consistently flout the spirit of this guarantee by enacting restrictive, exclusionary zoning regimes. Methods like minimum lot sizes and setback requirements artificially limit the number of homes in wealthy suburbs across the state, creating a situation where all students are theoretically welcome —but only if their parents can afford an expensive single family home (often over $1 million in parts of Fairfield County). 

Even when towns allow apartments, there are efforts to reduce the number of families who can live in them. A May 2021 article about Trumbull’s housing moratorium directly addressed the question “Does the cost of educating children living in apartment buildings make multifamily developments a money-losing proposition for Trumbull?” Even though the town’s data showed that apartments were generating millions in revenue, Trumbull officials promised that future apartments wouldn’t attract kids because the town disallowed family-friendly features like multiple bedrooms, dens and on-site playgrounds. 

These types of anti-kid apartment policies are everywhere, but they’re often lost because so much of the battle is about building any housing at all. For example, in an October 2021 CT Examiner piece about a proposed 100-unit apartment building in Guilford, the article added —almost as an afterthought— that “because all of the apartments would be one-bedroom units, Kral [the developer] said they don’t expect it would attract many families and would instead be geared primarily toward single people, older people, and couples.” Jacqueline Rabe Thomas highlighted this tactic of allowing new housing for seniors only in a June 2021 investigative article in the Connecticut Mirror

No matter the strategy, the sentiment is clear: children that live in single family homes on large lots are normal and worthy, while those that live in apartments are a burden on town coffers and should be discouraged. This goes against Connecticut’s family-friendly values and everything the state stands for. 

In March 1966 Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the Chicago Freedom Festival, stating that “Racially segregated, slum housing has adverse effects on educational chances for Chicago’s Negro schoolchildren. Slum housing invariably leads to de facto segregated schooling.” Connecticut may not have the slums of 1960s Chicago, but despite the ruling in Sheff v. O’Neill in 1996, Connecticut’s schools are still segregated by race and class

Fortunately, there’s a solution: build more housing in all of Connecticut’s towns. Duplexes, fourplexes, and apartments won’t just be good for the state’s economy —though they will be—they’ll be great for the values a progressive state like Connecticut espouses, including educational equity. Our school’s excellence isn’t based on exclusion, and building more housing in our suburbs isn’t a zero-sum game: we can welcome more families and maintain high-quality schools.

You can help make Connecticut a more equal, prosperous place by supporting current proposals like Growing Together CT’s Fair Share (HB 6633) and Desegregate Connecticut’s Work-Live-Ride. Submit testimony, contact your legislators, and urge Gov. Ned Lamont to show true leadership when it comes to housing.

In 2023, it should be unacceptable to oppose new homes because children will live in them. A kid’s worth isn’t based on their parent’s ability to buy one of the few, expensive homes available in our suburbs. Children who live in apartments are children, too, and we should welcome more homes and more families to our wonderful towns.

Thomas Broderick lives in Trumbull.