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Advocates say New London is in “crisis” for affordable housing

U.S. Department Of Housing And Urban Development
Connecticut low-income housing

The New London Homeless Hospitality Center has seen more people use its temporary shelter since the pandemic began. They might be in between apartments or have left their home.

Cathy Zall, the center’s executive director, said people are unable to move back into homes, because they’re being priced out of the market. She said it points to a growing “crisis” for the city and the state.

“We’ve just simply not built enough new housing for many many decades,” Zall said. “What is in place is getting more expensive, what used to be affordable is getting upgraded, so to speak, or converted into higher priced housing and the pipeline of new affordable housing is just miniscule. That combination of factors is just putting a huge crush on low-income individuals.”

The average rent in Connecticut has increased about 12% over the last 18 months, while nationally rent prices have risen around 18%. And homeowners, who have sold their property but haven’t found their next house, are opting to rent instead, while they wait for more homes or favorable mortgage rates to become available.

Several Connecticut towns have seen residents signing petitions or mounting legal challenges to change zoning codes to allow for more accessory apartments, or build more affordable, multi-family housing.

Opponents of new construction said the density of new properties will change the look and feel of their towns. They worry more families will strain municipal services and schools.

Polling of Connecticut voters shows inflation and economic uncertainty around energy costs are top of mind in this November’s midterm elections.

But the situation of housing insecurity isn’t helped by people’s stigma around affordable housing in their neighborhoods, Zall said.

“I don’t know where this sort of, kind of deep fear of affordable housing came from, because if you think about the history, we always had neighborhoods that had poor people and richer people,” she said. “We didn’t have this sense of creating these gated communities, where I needed to create these walls around myself to be safe, so to speak. ”

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.