Housing inequalities

If you're young and just starting out, or have a large family but small paycheck, good luck finding affordable housing in Connecticut.

And the old adage also hits home in the Nutmeg State: The rich are getting richer, while the poor keep getting poorer.

These are among the troubling findings of an annual survey released this week that underscores fundamental flaws in our economic and housing systems.

The report, HousingInCT2012, published by the Hartford affordable-housing advocacy group Partnership for Strong Communities, found that the bottom 40 percent of earners in Connecticut earned slightly less money over the past five years, at the same time top earners enjoyed significant gains.

In addition, the report found that even though rents in Connecticut are the sixth-highest in the nation, the state last year recorded the lowest level of housing built per capita in the nation.

A family now needs to earn $49,000 a year to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Connecticut, $20,000 more than it did less than 10 years ago, the report found.

A rule of thumb used to be that you should spend about a quarter of your paycheck on rent, but the report found that 52 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing.

Such sharp contrasts create inequities in schools and other institutions that should benefit from diversity rather than be burdened by monoculturalism.

Connecticut has long taken pride in being the wealthiest state in the nation; it should be ashamed of also having some of the poorest communities.

The report suggests more communities follow the example of several municipalities in southeastern Connecticut, including Old Saybrook, East Lyme, New London, Stonington, Ledyard, Montville, North Stonington and Preston: encourage construction of denser, more affordable housing.

These units would serve a broad spectrum, including older residents who can no longer maintain large homes, working-class families and young people just starting their careers.

This newspaper welcomes such a trend, as long as it complements rather than clashes with the existing mix of rural communities, old neighborhoods, urban centers and suburban developments that now make up the region.

Finding the proper balance remains a challenge, but as the report indicates, right now the scale is tipped too far in favor of the well-to-do.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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