Around 65 percent of Black and Hispanic Connecticut residents rent rather than own their living spaces, according to Fionnuala Darby-Hudgeons, Director of Operations of Connecticut Fair Housing Center.
60 percent of Black and Hispanic Connecticut residents cannot afford fair-market rent, according to the Fair Housing Center, compared to 36 percent of White residents, making the lack of affordable housing disproportionately affect people of color.
“We always look at the development of affordable housing as the most effective and least expensive way to integrate our predominantly White communities,” Darby-Hudgens said in an interview with zip06.com.
“Because Black and Hispanic families are much less likely to be able to afford fair market rents or mortgages, zoning regulations and zoning boards that make sure assisted or deed-restricted units never get built effectively ensures those people cannot live in that town,” Darby-Hudgens said, meaning that even if the intention isn’t discriminatory, the effect clearly is.
That problem is evident in Madison where the population is about 94 percent White, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to around 75 percent in the state of Connecticut. Fewer than 100 Black people call Madison home. While the state has become more diverse in population over time, Madison’s numbers haven’t budged.
For many years, Madison residents have resisted any movement toward adding affordable housing, with many legitimate concerns focusing on issues like traffic, commercialization, or potential tax impacts. But often pushback to affordable housing centers on imagery or fears not grounded in reality, according to Darby-Hudgens—things like crime, litter, or noise. These fears are often the product of racist biases, Darby-Hudgens said, and are rarely, if ever, reflective of these kinds of developments or the people who live in them.
Though the state has set a goal for every town to make 10 percent of its housing stock affordable, Madison has fallen woefully short—in fact, decreasing its total percentage of affordable units over the last 15 years or so.
Between 2002 and 2019, the town added a net of four affordable housing units, now sitting at 136, or 1.69 percent of the town’s housing stock.
But according to local legislators, discussions to potentially change how zoning and affordable housing are handled has gained traction at the state level, pushing to either further incentivize or find other methods to enforce equitable housing practices. Madison’s Planning & Zoning Commission recently recommended convening an ad-hoc committee to address affordable housing, in part because the state is requiring every town to adopt a long-term plan for affordable housing by 2022.
After the nation faced a reckoning this summer with stark examples of police brutality and systemic racism prompting demonstrations in thousands of cities and towns across every state, including in Madison, many people are seeking to find explanations for some of these persistent inequalities that continue to plague the country, the state, and the town.
Publisher’s Note: This article was aggregated from Race, Zoning, and Affordable Housing in Madison. According to zip06.com’s editor, this is the first in a series of articles on the effect of zoning on race in Madison.