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Lack of housing stifles CT’s economic growth

A view of North Bridgeport, Conn. looking Southeast towards the East Side neighborhood on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.
Joe Buglewicz
Connecticut Public
A view of North Bridgeport, Conn. looking Southeast towards the East Side neighborhood on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.

Connecticut’s housing shortage is impacting the state’s economy and preventing improvement.

That’s according to housing and economic development specialists in Fairfield County. They are speaking out about the lack of housing and its wide ranging impacts.

The state’s housing shortage is dissuading companies from coming to Connecticut, according to Stamford Downtown’s CEO David Kooris, who says those companies need to look out for their employees.

“They need places for those people to live close by,” Kooris. “That old concept of ‘drive till you qualify’ just really doesn't work in a place like Fairfield County, you can keep driving for tens of miles and still not be in a place that has significant housing inventory or affordability.”

Increasing housing options and affordability will draw more investors and corporations into the state, Kooris said.

“Companies from outside the state or outside the region entirely, looking at Connecticut, and liking our workforce, liking our education, liking our quality of life, but ultimately deciding not to come here because their employees look at the housing that they have, both in terms of cost and in terms of type, and then they look at what they could get here,” Kooris said.

To increase housing supply in certain areas, Kooris said other neighborhood aspects must be taken into account.

“It does come to a degree down to crime and education and the housing units in Bridgeport are only going to be attractive to a subset of the market, folks without kids, folks that are a little bit more tolerant of a different sort of living environment,” Kooris said.

Kooris, along with two other local economic and development specialists, spoke about the impact of the state’s housing crisis in Fairfield County, in a conversation held by Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity.

The state is short about 92,000 affordable units, meaning those families qualify for affordable housing but must struggle to pay market rate rent because the affordable homes are not accessible.

Approximately 1,000 residents sleeping outdoors on any given night, according to Bridgeport-based advocacy group The Housing Collective’s chief executive officer, David Rich.

While the state is in need of affordable housing options, there is a general dearth of housing inventory.

“In some communities, actually what they need is market rate apartments, they have affordable units,” Michelle McCabe, executive director of the Connecticut Main Street Center, said. “Bridgeport is a great example of that. And then on the flip side, you have communities where because there's such a high demand, it's very easy to charge a lot more for rents.”

The Work Live Ride bill, being considered by state lawmakers, would incentivize building more housing around transit and downtown hubs, which will help boost housing supply.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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