Merely minutes from some of the wealthiest towns in America, Brandé Rashford and her children, Wisdom (7) and Knowledge (9), were recent victims of the statewide housing crisis. Evicted in June 2023, they spent nights between shelters and their car, as their quest for secure housing was thwarted by housing voucher scarcity and a complex application process. In October, the Rashfords’ pursuit remained unfulfilled. Wisdom’s drawing captioned “Run for your life,” offers a silent cry for help amidst Connecticut’s affordable housing shortage.
The Problem: Affordable Housing Shortage
The Rashford’s situation is common in today’s housing market. Family homelessness continues to rise across the U.S.. However, homelessness isn’t an isolated issue. It’s rather one of several symptoms that have arisen from an unhealthy housing market. This market has been infected by an imbalance between supply and demand, plaguing the U.S. and Connecticut in particular. Senator Chris Murphy announced at a town hall in July 2023 that Connecticut has “the tightest housing supply in the nation.”
Steep Costs to Inaction
The widespread repercussions of Connecticut’s affordable housing shortage underscore the importance of investing significant resources into finding and implementing effective solutions.
State and municipal governments spend millions in taxpayer dollars every year to combat homelessness and support unhoused populations. Pervasive homelessness also threatens public health, compromises public safety, and exacerbates mental health and substance abuse issues.
The harms of the affordable housing shortage extend beyond homelessness, constraining economic growth. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) finds that America’s lack of affordable housing costs approximately $2 trillion a year in lower wages and productivity. If affordable housing were more available between 1964 and 2009, the NLIHC estimates that GDP would have been 13.5% higher, generating an additional $8,775 in wages per worker.
Urgent Call to Action
These high costs of inaction make it wise to dedicate significant resources to housing. After all, investments in affordable housing not only generate higher resident earnings and additional local tax revenue but also support job creation and retention.
Whether it’s reforming Section 8-30g, converting empty commercial buildings into affordable housing units, or addressing the income-side of the housing crisis by implementing a universal basic income, policy makers have a multitude of promising solutions at their disposal. It’s time for them to act.
Collaboration Is Key
Lacking county-level government, municipalities and state government must work together. State government should take the lead considering the need for ample resources, the inter-jurisdictional nature of housing markets, and the strength of local resistance to growing population density. However, municipal cooperation is essential; without it, the state government might struggle to reduce residential displacement, foster community compromise, and promote acceptance of all housing types.
Bigger Than Housing
There’s no more time for empty rhetoric or political mishigas.
Remember the Rashfords. After months of not knowing where she would sleep until dinnertime, Wisdom envisioned her mom next to their family’s future home.
A victim of the broken housing market, Wisdom still hopes for a brighter future. Government officials must meet this moment. For if officials continue to abandon young believers, like Wisdom, they risk breeding a politically disaffected and distrustful generation of cynics.