If, like many of my friends, you’re graduating from university and getting ready to tackle the professional world, you’ll need some luck finding a home in Connecticut. This problem is not exclusive to Connecticut but one that we, as a state, have struggled to solve .
This dilemma is why I got involved in the pro-homes movement, advocating for local and state zoning reforms that work for everyone. I’m still in college, living at home, but will face this problem soon. As a lifelong Nutmegger, there is a part of me that wants to stay in Connecticut and start my career, but I know that may not be practical. For many of my generation, it isn’t.
The housing crisis impacts everyone in our state. Whether it’s our failure to retain skillful young individuals, our incapability to provide affordable homes to those who need them, or our failure to build homes in sustainable places, we must do better. This is why I’m fighting for change by supporting H.B. 6890, also known as “Work Live Ride.”
Work Live Ride helps towns and cities establish Transit-Oriented Community (TOC) districts that promote the construction of new homes and businesses near bus or rail stations with state funding and support provided for towns that opt-in. In particular, it incentivizes “missing middle homes and requires a certain percentage of homes to be affordable through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) opportunity map.
The “Work” part of this bill details how we can build multi-family, mixed-use homes and businesses to retain our younger population, like myself. Look at all the empty buildings located on or near car-centric plazas that are not within walking distance from any home. That’s why they’re vacant; these places see little foot traffic. Nobody will explore a new business if you drive by it from afar. We need more walkable mixed-use developments that put people within walking distance of jobs and small businesses rather than car-dependent sprawl that kills economic vitality.
The next part of the bill is “Live.” Many homeowners in Connecticut prefer to maintain single-family zoning and uphold minimum lot size requirements that can result in higher living costs for prospective homeowners. When starting out, most young people are looking for smaller homes, like an apartment, not a big single-family house requiring two acres. Young people also want to walk more and drive less, even in the suburbs, but we don’t zone for it. This is what causes many young people (including some of my friends) to leave the state and look for new communities to find a home.
The last critical part is “Ride.” These TOC districts will be located close to public transit stations. Work Live Ride will help increase ridership of our bus and rail systems, making it easier for people to get around without a car and making more of a case for expanding transit service. This will reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions while preserving our forests and farms from development. My generation will be living through climate change; fighting it is important to us, and this bill does.
Work Live Ride poses as a first step to solving the overarching consequence of our inability to zone for a growing population and a changing economy and climate. There is a saying I’ve heard that town planners use: “you zone for what you want.” Many young people want mixed-use, multi-family development, but we aren’t represented in these decisions. I’m trying to change that, and I know Work Live Ride will help in those efforts so that our communities work for everyone.
Alan Cavagnaro is Campaign Coordinator for DesegregateCT.