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CT housing is less segregated than before, but there’s room for improvement, study says

FILE, 2022: A potential buyer tours a home in New Haven County.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
FILE, 2022: A potential buyer tours a home in New Haven County.

Connecticut’s housing remains largely segregated, but housing providers, community advocates and state officials say they’re working to lessen the divide.

A recent study, commissioned by the state, looked at Connecticut’s racial and income segregation over the last 30 years, including the efficacy of subsidized housing.

There’s racial inequity with subsidized housing across Connecticut, according to the report. In more than half of the state’s municipalities, a greater share of subsidized households were people of color, compared to the municipalities as a whole.

Housing and community providers met recently for a virtual discussion of ways to address the state’s segregation.

Fairfield County is particularly segregated, said Tanya Hills with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. The foundation is working to grow community will and participation in tackling inequity, she said.

“Racial segregation, as we all know, perpetuates inequitable access to resources, undermines well being and quality of life for those who were predominantly affected by it,” Hills said. “It also distorts the collective understanding of our racial history.”

People of color live largely in the state’s urban areas, due to historical practices, the report found. But segregation is on the decline.

“Many of the areas that are seeing decreased segregation are a reflection of migration and socioeconomic trends that have driven the State’s segregation patterns over the past 30 years,” the report reads.

In Fairfield County, a part of segregation is imposed by varying income levels, according to D’Andra Lewis, a housing coordinator with YMCA Greenwich.

“Our greatest difficulty is locating affordable housing in Fairfield County,” Lewis said. “Right now, Fairfield County has some of the highest fair market rents in the nation. They're astronomical, and unfortunately, they're not keeping up with the current wages or inflation.”

Housing voucher programs were established as a means to decrease the equity gap, but have largely failed, according to the report.

The average time on a housing choice voucher wait list in Connecticut is 28 months and waitlists are closed for years at a time.

The state Department of Housing last opened the Rental Assistance Program waitlist in 2017, accepting 7,000 of the 48,000 applications. Of the 7,000 households, about 1,400 have yet to receive vouchers, according to the study.

The housing department points to its new Build for CT initiative as one way to address the state’s housing issues. It’s designed to increase housing supply across the state and is aimed at middle-income households.

The program provides state funding for housing projects that need a final monetary boost.

“We are certainly focused on the need to produce more housing, not just subsidized housing, but housing of all types and income bands,” said Brandon McGee, the deputy housing commissioner.

Meanwhile, the study found demand for subsidized housing continues to increase and far outpaces supply. The gap continues to increase between subsidized housing and market-rate housing, making it tougher for people to leave subsidized housing.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.