Living in Bridgeport as a college student has opened my eyes to the major housing inequities in our state. While I have a secure place to lay my head each night, many of my neighbors do not.
One fellow Bridgeport resident, Cindy, was interviewed by Patricia Lewis about her hardship in finding housing. Cindy, a multiracial mother in her late 30s, has struggled with housing insecurity throughout her life, including being homeless for many years. During the interview, Cindy spoke of how it was difficult to make ends meet: “For someone that was in my predicament that was on a fixed income, the majority of my money goes on my bills and I’m really left with nothing.”
While she currently lives in an affordable housing unit, Cindy does not find it very ‘affordable’, however, she is unable to find affordable housing outside of Bridgeport due to restrictive zoning policies.
Many Connecticut residents are in the same situation as Cindy. High rent costs are causing a financial burden and many are unable to keep up with payments, causing them to lose their homes through eviction. These high rent prices, lack of affordable housing, and subsequent evictions can be ameliorated if Connecticut passes the Fair Share Housing Bill.
Housing insecurity and inequities are major problems Connecticut faces. Over the past years, homelessness rates in Connecticut were on the decline, yet in 2022 they rose by 13%. A factor that may be causing this spike in homelessness is the fact that Connecticut lacks rental housing affordable to lower-income residents. Having these affordable units available is essential to combat the number of residents who are left homeless.
Connecticut has the lowest vacancy rate in the nation which leaves those searching for a home with few options. In my Community and Public Health class project, we worked with a local nonprofit this semester to investigate vacancy rates in the Bridgeport Metro Area. Our findings from Apartment List are displayed in the graph below. It is evident vacancy rates peaked in July of 2020 and dropped significantly in July of 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic may have had an influence on vacancy rates explaining the peak in July 2020. But the general downward trend spells trouble for those who rely on this market for shelter.
This shortage of available housing does not give residents much choice in the pricing and location of their homes. People are often forced to live in areas they cannot afford or agree on prices their income will not allow them to pay. It is extremely upsetting to hear stories of families who must sign a lease knowing they cannot afford it just so their children have a safe place to sleep.
Housing insecurity and lack of affordable housing inevitably lead to evictions. There have been 39,893 eviction filings since March 15, 2020. Eviction severely disrupts life causing families to stress over where they will sleep, how they will eat, and how they will provide a stable environment for their children. Families with children are more likely to get evicted than those who live alone.
People of color are also more likely to be evicted, and more specifically women of color. In fact, in 2021, 54% of those evicted were female. Of those women evicted, 62% were black, and Blacks and Latinos were over two times more likely to be evicted than whites. This further conveys the inequalities minorities are met with when residing in Connecticut.
Connecticut can allow all to be treated fairly in the housing industry by passing the Fair Share Housing Bill. This bill seeks to aid in the overall equity of the housing process. It would require a state-wide study focusing on different housing needs and an attempt to make housing more accessible. This involves creating financial incentives for areas that implement affordable housing, having stricter eviction policies in favor of tenants, and controlling rent issues. Overall, the Fair Share Housing Bill would help ensure those attempting to rent or buy a home are treated fairly no matter their race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Some who are not faced with these disparities and inequities may not wish for this bill to pass. They may simply not see the need for the issues to be addressed and understand what others in their state are facing, or they do not want affordable housing in their neighborhoods. Connecticut is an extremely diverse state in terms of the distribution of wealth. Darien is one of the wealthiest towns in Connecticut with a median income of $243,750, and a median home value of about $1.7M.
They may wish to keep their areas pristine and may be upset by affordable housing being introduced to their neighborhoods. Since they have never experienced homelessness, they may think negatively about affordable housing. As mentioned by CT 169 Strong, some wish to mandate towns to fund development themselves. This would be a problem for lower-income areas because they are deprived of the funding necessary to flourish and develop.
Cindy’s story is not the only one of its kind. Unfortunately, the reality of many Connecticut residents and families is facing unjust policies. Connecticut’s wealth is unfairly distributed, and those who are not faced with injustices do not care about the problem. Not only do the people of Connecticut have to care, but so do policymakers. The state of Connecticut must wake up and recognize Connecticut’s housing industry for what it truly is, unfair.
Caroline Callanan is a sophomore at Sacred Heart University, majoring in Health Science with a Public Health concentration.