Stephanie Berman is the Executive Assistant at Partnership for Strong Communities.
Before I joined the Partnership, I didn’t think that affordable housing was relevant to me. But in the month that I’ve been working here, my coworkers have helped me realize just how much the lack of affordable housing is affecting me and those around me.
My two best friends and I are in our late twenties, and like many other Millennials, we are still living at home. According to a Stateline analysis, the state of Connecticut has the second highest rate of young people living with at least one parent out of all U.S. states. While we earned college degrees and have jobs we love, we also carry a large amount of student loan debt that we’re paying off, which significantly cuts down on the money we’re able to spend on rent.
As much as we want to be independent and have a place to call our own, we just can’t do that with the limited housing options available to us at an affordable rate. Towns like West Hartford or Glastonbury that are close to our workplaces and have the downtown appeal we desire have a narrow range of housing choices for Millennials seeking to move to those towns. If I was to attempt to pay the $1,000+ gross rent that the majority of the rental units in those towns have, I wouldn’t have enough money left to cover the car payment or gas needed to get me to work, or buy food or other basic life necessities.
The lack of affordable housing isn’t just affecting me, but my family as well. My grandmother, who is over eighty years old, can’t downsize into a smaller home or apartment due to a lack of affordable housing in her area. She’s currently living in her home in Bolton, and due to a bad knee she’s now confined to the main floor. That means she can’t get to the laundry machine in her basement or get to any items stored in her attic without assistance. My grandmother doesn’t want to leave the town where she’s spent over fifty years of her life, but on a fixed income and with only 1% of homes in Bolton being affordable, she has limited to no housing options to consider. Can you imagine all of the Baby Boomers and elderly residents in Connecticut facing a similar situation?
Let’s not forget all of the school teachers who educated me, the nurses who help me when I’m sick, and the patrol officers and firefighters who protect me and my neighbors. This workforce has a large impact on the community but often only makes a modest income. This discrepancy between income and available housing can keep them from being able to afford housing and spending money in the towns they serve, which in the long run can really hurt the town.
The Partnership’s HOMEConnecticut campaign is aimed at increasing the stock of affordable housing in Connecticut, and the staff members are working to educate municipal officials about local housing markets and misperceptions about affordable housing. I’m excited to be working for an organization that can help to push for changes to allow for more affordable housing and to help educate people on who really benefits from this housing. It might not always be who you think.
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