Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Soap Box


Affordable Housing in CT – Part 1

By Timothy Bristol

For the next few weeks, I want to go deep into the topic of affordable housing. I want to explore the ideas behind affordable housing and why it is an important topic to discuss.   I will interview a few experts on the topic and will be presenting their thoughts over the next couple of weeks. My hope is to dispel some myths about affordable housing and get some insight into the importance of this policy to Connecticut towns and especially Stratford.

For my first interview, I spoke to Dr. Jonathan Wharton, a Professor of Political Science at Southern Connecticut State University. Dr. Wharton has focused on policy towards Planning and Urban development. He has also been involved in New Haven’s planning and development in the past. I spoke with him about his take on Affordable Housing.

According to Dr. Wharton “Affordable housing is often, but not always, based on a certain scale of rent charged based on the area and market as well as a renter’s income. Traditionally, it should be a 1/3 of a renter’s income but in urban areas especially it tends to be 40%, even 50%.”

What are the differences were between affordable housing and low-income housing?

“Often both initiatives are used interchangeably and should not be all the time. Low-income housing is often centered on a poverty level amount. Which is nationally $27K per family or less and in some places it can be higher based on cost-of-living expenses.”

He continued: “Usually, section 8 housing (based on HUD standards) will have renters qualify for rental vouchers to live in specifically defined housing or designated housing developments. The image is often “projects” but it is more than just that. Some can be housing authority complexes in a variety of areas. Others can be mixed-income or set-aside housing of 10, 20, 30% of units for low-income or affordable housing. Usually, affordable housing would be for public employees or public safety renters, or owners and they can be more than often middle class based on income”

Dr. Wharton spoke about the necessity of affordable housing saying that it is necessary in many localities but not everywhere, and that there were several different approaches to affordable housing policy including mixed-income housing and rent control. He said that the misconception of affordable housing was that “All housing options are the same when they really vary by practice, policy, and location.”

What are the difficulties in Connecticut with affordable housing policy?

“Too often local governments are the ones missioned to address affordable housing and the state has few options or involvement because of what’s been done for years and local home rule authority.”

He also noted the Pros and Cons of affordable housing policy by saying “It allows for many to stay in their neighborhoods, especially if gentrification is concerning. But it’s often difficult to lure developers and investors as well as gain support from many wealthier land owning and property paying residents.”

I would like to thank Dr. Wharton for his time and contribution:

Jonathan L. Wharton, Ph.D.
Associate Dean
School of Graduate & Professional Studies
Southern Connecticut State U



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