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Many CT cities don’t have enough affordable housing. Here's how one town is making strides

Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli speaking about the importance of increasing affordable housing at an event at the Lascana Homes affordable housing development May 13, 2024. The development opened late last year and is fully occupied. It has 46 apartments, including 10 specifically for residents with disabilities.
Abby Brone
/
Connecticut Public
Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli speaking about the importance of increasing affordable housing at an event at the Lascana Homes affordable housing development May 13, 2024. The development opened late last year and is fully occupied. It has 46 apartments, including 10 specifically for residents with disabilities.

Small towns across Connecticut are struggling to meet the demand for more housing. The town of Orange is among those working to identify more affordable options.

Lascana Homes in Orange has 46 affordable apartments, including 10 adapted for residents with physical and intellectual disabilities. It opened late last year and is now fully occupied.

Some communities shy away from trying to meet the state’s affordable housing requirements, Orange First Selectman Jim Zeoli said.

“They think no activity is the answer,” Zeoli said.

But he said working with the state and with developers “to come up with a reasonable fit for your community is always possible.”

Lascana Homes was a roughly $20 million development, with $6.6 million provided by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and Department of Housing. It is the first development in Orange to be awarded federal low-income housing tax credits and an award for sustainability.

To Zeoli, the best way to increase affordable options is by working with developers to ensure a project fits in with the town and reach compromises rather than push back against proposed complexes.

Many small towns don’t meet a state threshold of having 10% of housing stock considered affordable, according to state housing data. Orange has been at about 1%, but officials are aiming to make progress.

Some small towns in Connecticut are working to break down stereotypes surrounding affordable housing, as elected leaders and neighborhoods are often opposed to it.

Only 29 municipalities in the state meet the required 10% threshold, most of which are large cities such as Hartford, New Haven and Stamford. However, some smaller communities have reached the level, including Plainfield, Vernon and Putnam.

Orange’s dedication to increasing affordable housing options is an example of a community getting it right, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.

“Housing is about independence and making sure that those who can’t afford but are working hard, and those who work in this town and want to live in this town, those with disabilities have a place that they can call home,” Lamont said.

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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