After decades of increasing housing segregation in Connecticut and across the United States – which saw residents separated by income, race, age and their abilities and disabilities – mixed-income housing has begun breaking down those walls. In many municipalities across the state, from Darien to Wallingford and Farmington to New Canaan, doctors live down the hall from nurses, lawyers down the block from paralegals, grandmothers next door to graduate students.
Mixed-Income Communities Work
Mixed-income communities are comprised of residents renting or owning their homes at varying rates based on their income levels. Typically, smart developers make smart decisions to maximize their profit and income stream, such as utilizing inexpensive land and employing density levels that allow them to spread their land costs over more units.
The combination of market-rate condominiums or rentals with homes that are affordable to residents making 80% or 60% of the area’s median income has worked successfully for three principal reasons:
- They are well-designed and easier to maintain.
Because of this, they retain their value because market-rate units provide sufficient revenue to permit continual maintenance and upkeep.
- They are easier to finance.
The favorable market-rate-to-affordable unit mix – usually 70%-30% or 80%-20% -- makes them easier to finance, drawing private financing rather than government subsidy.
- They are good neighbors.
Contrary to myth and misconception, they typically do not lower property values, increase school costs, or negatively impact the crime rate.
The demand for smaller, energy-efficient, lower cost and transit-proximate units in mixed-income developments is likely to increase. Why? Economic and demographic trends are bringing change:
- Shrinking government housing subsidy has made it harder to build affordable-only developments.
- Increases in credit and down payment requirements have made it challenging to buy more expensive homes.
- Hikes in gasoline and heating oil prices have made energy efficiency essential.
- Empty-nesters need homes that allow them to downsize.
- Young professionals need smaller, more affordable housing.
What We've Learned About Mixed-Income Communities
While even the best mixed-income communities are, like all neighborhoods, not perfect – from time to time, residents disagree, fail to take care of their properties, and see crimes committed – objective observers, from mayors and police chiefs to the residents themselves, say their mixed-income communities have a largely positive impact on their towns. That is consistent with studies done by Rutgers University, MIT and other respected reseachers:
- The values of the development’s properties stay high and neighboring properties are not negatively affected despite a widespread misconception that property values near affordable or mixed-income communities decrease.
- School-aged children are not present to an extent that overwhelms the town’s school system or raises school costs, largely because the mix of home sizes tends to accommodate many few children than is widely believed, and the few school children who live in the communities are generally scattered among many grades, schools or both.
Less tangible than school enrollments and property values – but equally important— are the more subtle indicators of a positive quality of life in mixed-income developments. The benefits of well-located affordability for Connecticut families abound: retail merchants and fresh, affordable food are easily accessible; community services and recreational and cultural activities are available, and children can access some of the state’s strongest education systems.
Within the mixed-income community itself, people of different incomes, ethnicities, geographic backgrounds and other diverse origins become not just neighbors, but friends. The neighborhood becomes a place where class lines blur, and people of different professions, incomes, lifestyles, and cultures learn from and about one another.
Farmington and Wallingford are among the many municipalities where established mixed-income developments have prospered. They can demonstrate how mixed-income developments work for Connecticut families and individuals:
Both developments were designed and built with care. Both look as attractive now as they did when they were first constructed. Both are seen by municipal officials as welcome – and needed – additions to their towns’ spectrum of housing options.
Click here to read more about Heritage Glen.
Click here to read more about Olde Oak Village.
Click here for our publication, Success Stories: Mixed Income Housing in CT