At the Partnership for Strong Communities, we advocate for safe, stable, and affordable homes in all of our state's communities. We receive a lot of questions about affordable housing, and how it benefits Connecticut residents; below are some of the most common questions. We hope that this FAQ helps people understand the need for affordable homes in their towns and cities.
1. What is affordable housing? How is it different from supportive housing?
The common definition of an affordable home is one where the resident spends no more than 30% of their income to pay the rent or mortgage. Supportive housing is also considered affordable, but goes a step further to include access to additional services or resources that low-income residents may need.
Over 200,000 households are spending more than half their income on housing costs. In Connecticut, the amount a person must make per hour to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment is $25.40 and the average wage for a renter is $17.53 (NLIHC, 2019).
2. What is the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure (C.G.S. Section 8-30g)?
In an effort to encourage affordable housing statewide, Connecticut municipalities with less than 10% of their housing stock designated as affordable are subject to the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure, C.G.S. 8-30g (widely known as “Section 8-30g”). This means towns with the least amount of affordable housing are responsible for further explanation if their planning and zoning commissions deny a developer’s application to build affordable housing. C.G.S. 8-30g lets developers pursue a court appeal, where the town has the burden of proof in showing the denial was based on a substantial public health and safety concern that “clearly outweighs” the town’s need for more affordable housing. Currently only about 18% of municipalities are meeting this threshold. (Visit the Department of Housing Land Use Appeals page for more information).
3. Why is affordable housing good for my town and the state? Who really benefits from affordable housing?
Regardless of if you already own a home or can comfortably afford rent, affordable housing options benefit all of us by making our economy and middle class stronger. When outsized housing costs eat up a family’s budget, there’s little wiggle room left for discretionary spending. When people have fewer extra dollars in their pockets to spend at local restaurants, shops and service providers, the entire economy suffers the loss in revenue, as does the state with the loss of sales tax. If we want to keep a strong middle class in Connecticut – and in turn build a thriving economy – we need housing options that work for people from all walks of life.
Everyone in Connecticut benefits from a healthy economy where residents are financially stable in their housing and not just scrambling to make ends meet. Expanding affordable housing options for rentals and starter homes means more families have an opportunity to move up the socio-economic ladder and become part of a strong middle class. Affordable housing brings down Connecticut’s sky-high cost of living, allowing our families, our towns, and our state to direct money towards the other issues we care about and better strengthen our long-term economic future.
4. Does affordable housing make other taxpayers pay a larger share of municipal services costs?
People often think affordable and subsidized housing developers do not pay local property taxes. That isn’t true. These developers pay taxes just as any private homeowner or management company would. In fact, most affordable housing complexes include a mix of affordable units and those renting or selling at market rate. Affordable housing is funded in Connecticut at both the state and federal level.
5. Why are so many young adults living at home with their parents? Why can’t they afford housing on their own?
Connecticut’s millennial population – our most promising future workforce – is shrinking. The next generation is leaving in droves to more affordable, up-and-coming cities because Connecticut lacks affordable and desirable places for this generation to live. Many of those who stay in state simply can’t afford to live on their own. Connecticut has the 6th highest amount of student debt in the nation. Saddled with monthly loan payments, and starting on entry-level salaries, it’s no wonder 42% of millennials in Connecticut are still living with their parents, the second highest rate in the nation. Single family homes, which make up 70% of the housing stock in the vast majority of our municipalities, are impractical and unaffordable for young professionals and couples just starting out.
6. Why should housing be close to transit?
Young families and skilled workers today also want walkable communities where transit, shopping and town centers are easily accessible. Mixed-use and affordable housing gives these young professionals the kind of communities they want at a price point they can afford, and when done so strategically to create walkable communities, is a catalyst for economic growth and new activity. Affordable housing options built near transit centers also opens doors for low-income residents by gaining them access to a larger job pool in other towns and cities across Connecticut, as well as access to more essential services. While many residents may not be able to afford a car, and therefore be limited in the distance within which they can seek out employment, the ability to live reasonably near public transportation means greater opportunities for more Connecticut residents.
Half-empty or underused plots of land – especially near mass transit stations like the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line – aren’t being used to their fullest potential and are a gold mine of opportunity. By utilizing these underdeveloped locations for affordable housing, we not only provide current residents access to the housing options they increasingly want – and are able to afford – but we are also able to expand access to jobs people need and better attract and retain new families and businesses to our cities and towns.
7. If my town doesn’t have transit, why should we care about affordable housing?
Connecticut's cities and towns are starved for fresh revenue, especially as statewide budget cuts to municipal aid loom over local communities. As grand lists have flattened or fallen, nearly 90% of Connecticut’s cities and towns haven’t seen any growth in the total value of taxable property in the last ten years. While this kind of stagnation puts local homeowners at risk of seeing their property taxes go up, it also threatens the overall quality of life, vibrancy and culture of our communities.
Instead of growing, our population is getting older every year, which poses a serious threat to the strength of our civic workforce, like police officers, firefighters and teachers aging out of their jobs. Moreover, as our residents age, more and more healthcare workers and homecare aides are needed to care for this population, and these workers – many of whom earn minimum wage – need housing that meets their budgets and should be able to live in the towns where they work. By creating more mixed-income, multi-family housing in all of our municipalities, we will help the state remain economically competitive and preserve the quality of life we all value here, for everyone.
8. How can increasing housing stability help close the achievement gap?
Being able to find a comfortable home in a safe community is also an essential launching pad for social and economic mobility. The average family in Connecticut has a long list of bills to pay between gas, cable, smartphones, health insurance and more. However, no expense places a burden on families in Connecticut like the cost of housing. A family’s limited discretionary income due to housing costs may mean making serious sacrifices like healthcare or basic needs. Worse, one unexpected emergency expense can put a family already stretched to the limit on the brink of homelessness.
Housing instability especially impacts children living in low-income communities. For too many young students, access to a quality education is only half the battle, without the added stress of being able to keep their home or moving frequently, sometimes in and out of a shelter. A safe and stable home environment outside the classroom is essential to set our students up for educational success. At the same time, parents who aren’t struggling to make ends meet can afford to invest in quality of life for their children, through healthcare, more reliable transportation options and additional educational support.
Expanding affordable housing options for families living paycheck to paycheck not only helps ensure vulnerable children and working people don’t end up without a place to sleep at night, but can alleviate a tremendous cost burden that keeps them from getting out of a cycle of poverty. More affordable housing options means a greater number of Connecticut families have an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and save for things like college, retirement, or their first permanent home.
9. Connecticut is already crowded, why do we want to attract more people to live in our state?
The number of young children in Connecticut is actually on the decline. The school-age population is set to decrease in the majority of municipalities through 2030. Young parents – as well as couples considering becoming parents – want to live near good school districts for their children. When they find it impossible to afford adequate housing for a growing family in desirable communities, they are forced to move their family out of state, taking their careers and their tax dollars with them.
In order to remain competitive, we also need a marketplace that allows business to grow and thrive. In order to do that, businesses need to be able to access a robust workforce. However, if families can’t afford to live in Connecticut’s communities, the labor pool will remain stagnant, and businesses won’t want to come here. Studies show that increasing the mix of housing in our communities can help bring thousands of jobs to local communities and millions of dollars in additional state and local revenue each year.
Do you have a question about affordable housing in Connecticut? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.