The third IForum of the season “Housing Choice & Affordability: Unlocking Opportunity” was, in fact, 10 years in the making. Over 100 people gathered to gain a greater understanding of the history of Connecticut’s housing landscape and approaches being applied to advance housing choice and opportunity. Welcoming remarks were provided by veteran Connecticut journalist, Tom Condon, who aptly situated the conversation within our Lyceum neighborhood. He remarked on the area’s manufacturing history and the attendant housing and patterns of development that followed.
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Keynote speaker, Richard Rothstein, Research Associate at the Economic Policy Institute, instructively described the history of local, state and federal policies that resulted in today’s housing market (see video for full remarks). These policies were advanced through public housing and the Federal Housing Administration for most of the last century. They were designed to advance segregationist objectives that ultimately denied homeownership and the attendant wealth generating opportunities to generations of African Americans and incentivized and homogenized suburbanization.
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Segueing to the panel, Dr. Paul Freeman, Superintendent of the Guilford Public Schools, described the comprehensive effort that the community is taking to bring more housing choices in town. This included the production of a public service video by the Guilford Foundation, a town-wide resident survey and in-depth examination of the housing stock.
Guilford is not alone in this effort. After years of hard work by municipal planners, zoning commissions, first selectmen and residents, scores of affordable and mixed-income projects are being completed across the state. To showcase these accomplishments and provide insight and guidance to towns seeking to do the same, a panel of municipal leaders – Christine Nelson, Town Planner, Old Saybrook; Mark Barnhart, Director of Community and Economic Development, Fairfield; First Selectman Pat Llodra, Newtown; moderated by Julie Savin, Director of Real Estate Development, Neighborworks NewHorizons – shared their experiences describing what it took for their communities to become advocates for these projects and the careful planning required for success.
While not at a tipping point, these and other towns demonstrate that Connecticut is on its way toward creating the housing choices necessary to support future growth and healthy communities.
Introductory Remarks - Alicia Woodsby and Tom Condon
Keynote Speaker - Richard Rothstein
Superintendent of Guilford Public Schools - Dr. Paul Freeman
Panel Speakers and Q&A