A Letter to Voters
As elections once again near here in the Connecticut River/shoreline area, I urge my fellow voters to inquire about each candidate’s platform regarding affordable housing. As all of us from this area know, this region is a superb place to live. But having a home here, whether by owning or renting, is exceedingly expensive. According to the Connecticut Data Collaborative, the median home value in Essex for the time period of 2016-2020 was more than $416,000. We all know that in the time since this period, home prices have increased even further. The median household income in Middlesex County in 2020 was only $71,291. This means that many of us or our family, friends, or neighbors are living in homes that are increasingly difficult to afford.
Beyond the sheer mismatch between home values and incomes, the home types in our region are mostly the same: relatively large single-family homes on large lots. While many of these homes are beautiful and historic, and certainly add to the architectural appeal of our area, this type of home is not appropriate nor necessarily desired by many who would seek to live here. Many retirees, people with disabilities, young people or families, and many others need housing that is smaller, easier to maintain, and, yes, more affordable.
That’s why it is crucial that we all know how candidates view the issue of affordable housing and support those who are going to work to enact better public policy. A few of the important things to look for are candidates that support zoning reform to allow more as-of-right duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, expanding and broadening incentive funding programs for developing affordable housing, and expanding transit opportunities to allow appropriately-scaled development with access to vital services. Candidates may also have their own good ideas on how to expand affordable housing in their districts!
As a Board Member of HOPE Partnership, Inc. I have seen the impact of affordable housing firsthand. The attractive affordable townhomes and apartments that make up HOPE’s small communities in Old Saybrook and Essex, and soon-to-be Madison, are deeply impactful for those who rent them, but the homes are also important assets in the towns in which they are located. In order to keep our communities thriving, we need to ensure that there is a variety of housing available in each of our communities. And a great way to make this happen is to support candidates that will prioritize supporting affordable housing policies.