Creating More Housing Choices in Our Communities - It's Good for All of Us

There is a housing affordability crisis throughout the state, including in rural communities like Hebron, Marlborough, Andover and Columbia. This affects everyone, including young professionals, seniors and working families.

Because of rising housing costs, a lack of housing choices (especially affordable housing), and stagnant or slow-growing wages, many health care workers, first responders, teachers, retail and restaurant workers, and others are not able to live in the town where they work.

When the local workforce can’t find housing they can afford, the entire community suffers. Research shows that having access to affordable, stable housing in good neighborhoods is associated with positive health, education and economic outcomes for individuals and families. But having a sufficient supply of housing affordable to households all along the income spectrum is also critical to supporting vibrant and sustainable local economies.

The Problem:

Less than three percent of Hebron’s housing is deemed affordable (four percent in Andover and two percent in Marlborough and Columbia). The vast majority (90 percent) of the housing in these towns are single-family homes, meaning there are very few apartments available for those who can’t afford to, or don’t want to, live in a house.

Between 21 and 26 percent of the households in these four towns are cost-burdened – meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. For renters in our communities, the percentage is as high as 67 percent.

A lack of housing options also contributes to the lack of diversity in these towns.

Creating More Housing Options Will:

  • Enable more people who work here to live here if they choose. This includes essential workers (like teachers and teacher’s aides, first responders, health care aides, bus drivers, and retail workers).
  • Help people stay in a community they love as their housing needs change over their lives.
  • Allow our children and grandchildren, who may be currently priced-out, to live here.
  • Help existing businesses. When town residents spend less on housing costs, they can spend more at local businesses.
  • Attract new businesses. The new knowledge-based economy looks for a diverse workforce in affordable, walkable communities. These new businesses would provide new jobs, increase spending in our local economy, and create a more vibrant community.
  • Begin to increase diversity in our community by enabling more families and individuals with less resources to live here, including those who have been unable to accumulate wealth because of decades of exclusionary policies and practices.
  • Make Hebron more environmentally sustainable. Compact, village scale, multi-family homes will reduce the pressure to build houses on large lots and gobble up our valued farmland and forests.

Myths and Facts

Myth 1: More housing will lower property values
Fact: Studies reviewing trends from Arkansas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and nationally among many others, show that allowing different housing types has a neutral or even positive effect on the value of nearby property. Homes near multifamily housing appreciate faster on average than homes in single-family neighborhoods. Also, if you choose to carve out a small accessory apartment in your house, you will benefit from higher resale value (about 50% according to one study) and have rental income, which may be especially important to seniors on fixed incomes hoping to age in place.
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Myth 2: Creating more housing types will increase our town’s mill rate.
False. The more housing that is built, the more taxable property there is, and the lower everyone’s mill rate is. In many situations, recent housing built in a town, particularly multifamily housing, can become its largest taxpayer. Studies show that targeted upzoning for diverse forms of traditional housing and multifamily housing generates more property revenue per acre than single-family homes.
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Myth 3: Creating mixed-income/affordable housing will burden our schools.  
Actually, single family homes produce the highest school enrollment. Studies consistently show that multi-family housing results in fewer school-age children per unit compared to single-family homes. In addition, school enrollments are decreasing in certain grades and school systems and there is available capacity in those situations.
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Myth 4: Affordable housing makes other taxpayers pay a larger share of municipal services.
Affordable and subsidized housing developers pay local property taxes just as any private homeowner or management company do. In fact, most affordable housing complexes include a mix of affordable units and those renting or selling at market rate. Affordable housing is funded in Connecticut at both the state and federal level.
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Myth 5: People are “given” affordable housing.
False. Affordable housing is for people and families earning modest incomes and who may be struggling with the basic cost of living. Affordable housing units are priced according to people’s ability to pay and their housing payment is capped at 30% of income. The units are price restricted to eligible people.
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Myth 6: Multi-family housing hurts the environment.
Just the opposite. According to the EPA, conventional, large-lot, dispersed housing development challenges our ability to maintain and protect air and water quality. Conventional housing development has contributed to converting rural land at a rate three times faster than population growth. A smart growth approach to housing, with compact development, green design and construction, and transportation options, can help communities and their residents protect the environment and create more affordable neighborhoods.
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Myth 7: Multi-family housing brings crime.
Not true. Research shows that the rate of police activity in multi-family communities is no worse (and in many cases better per housing unit) than in single family subdivisions. Apartment residents are socially engaged people who identify closely with their communities. In fact, they are more likely than homeowners to socialize with their neighbors and just as likely to be involved in their local sports leagues and book clubs.
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Resources and More Information

Examples of Mixed-Income Housing in CT and Beyond

Common myths about “affordable” housing

Connecticut Affordable Housing FAQ

Workforce Housing Essential for CT Economic Growth

EPA Smart Growth and Affordable Housing

CT's racial, economic segregation among worst in U.S.

The Impact of Restrictive Zoning Ordinances on Economic Mobility

Housing Our Neighbors: Creating Affordable Housing in Rural Connecticut

An Investment in the Community NWCT Affordable Housing Film