Affordable housing – myths versus facts, and a way forward
Connecticut is an expensive place to live. The average rent for two bedrooms is $1,327, 16% higher than the national average of $1,148. A family of four needs income ranging from $109,497 in Fairfield County to $86,747 in Windham County to live “comfortably.”
I fully support finding ways to make more affordable housing choices available to our citizens. I am a member of my town’s Affordable Housing Commission, volunteering my time to make this a reality.
In my work in this area, I have discovered that the affordable housing data used by the state is myth, not reality.
First, in order for housing to be counted as affordable, it must have been constructed after 1990. (See the statute here.) This makes no sense in a state where tens of thousands of families live happily in homes built in the 1700s and 1800s.
Second, housing affordability is not determined by whether the rent is affordable or not, but by whether the property is subject to a deed restriction to prevent its rent from ever rising above affordable levels in the future. Thus, the apartment that my neighbor rents for $1,100 per month to a local teacher is not counted as an affordable housing unit, even though it is, in fact, affordable housing serving the needs of the community.
How many affordable housing units are there in Connecticut? No one knows. It is impossible to make good decisions without accurate data.
In order for our state to form a coherent policy response, we need to recognize the facts on the ground without artificial definitions. The data we use must be accurate and complete. The legislature should amend its definition of Affordable Housing to reflect the reality on the ground in our cities and towns, rather than the current artificial measurement.
Connecticut, let’s get the facts and do the job right.
Jim Miller lives in Lyme.
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