To the Editor:
A May 24 article in the CT Examiner, “Developer Threatens 8-30g, Racial Justice Protests, After Darien Asks to Scale Back” by Cate Hewitt described a Darien Architectural Review Board meeting held last week, where developer Harold Platz threatened to change from the three-story, 22 unit building currently proposed to a larger project including more affordable units if the board would not compromise on characteristics of the project. Unfortunately, Mr. Platz weaponized affordable housing, and employed the racist language and stereotypes that have contributed to Connecticut’s status as one of the most segregated states in the country.
Like many of its neighboring towns, Darien doesn’t have much affordable housing. In the period 2002 – 2021, Darien’s supply of affordable homes increased by only 194, bringing the affordable housing supply up to four percent of their housing stock. For several years, the town has had an inclusionary housing ordinance in place that requires a portion of a development’s homes be set aside to remain affordable to households with incomes less than 80% of the state’s median household income. This is a good policy, yet Darien still has a way to go.
Section 8-30g, a decades-old state law, simply gives developers working to develop affordable housing a right of action when town zoning officials oppose such a development on spurious grounds. Where towns have yet to reach a threshold of 10% of their housing stock being affordable (deed-restricted units, voucher-subsidized rentals, and subsidized mortgages count) 8-30g can and has helped create thousands of desperately needed affordable housing options in Connecticut.
While many would agree we need to create more affordable housing options, using racist scare tactics to achieve that goal is wrong and counterproductive. Mr. Platz’s suggestion that affordable housing residents are necessarily “minorities” is not only racial stereotyping, but also wrong on the facts. While households of color represent a disproportionate portion of households experiencing housing insecurity relative to the overall population thanks to decades of state, local and federal laws aimed at preventing such stability, most low-income households in Connecticut area headed by white individuals.
Weaponizing affordable housing, the housing rights of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), and social justice movements in the name of this cause is morally unjustifiable. Using those tactics to justify affordable housing development is reprehensible.
Policy Director, Partnership for Strong Communities