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How Wealthy Suburbs Block Outsiders From Economic Opportunity

Exclusionary zoning and land use tactics have a long history in the United States, retaining startling relevance in contemporary times. A deep investigation into Connecticut land use politics reveals just how entrenched these practices are.
May 28, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Wendell Guy

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas explores Connecticut for lessons in how wealthy suburbs surround themselves "with invisible walls to block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it."

In a liberal state that has provided billions in taxpayer money to create more affordable housing, decisions at local zoning boards, the Connecticut Capitol and state agencies have thwarted court rulings and laws intended to remedy housing segregation. As far back as data has been kept, Connecticut’s low-income housing has been concentrated in poor cities and towns, an imbalance that has not budged over the last three decades.

The article starts with a single development anecdote from the city of Westport, but the article is also the vessel for sharing the findings for a larger study by the Connecticut Mirror and ProPublica that finds "more than three dozen Connecticut towns have blocked construction of any privately developed duplexes and apartments within their borders for the last two decades, often through exclusionary zoning requirements. In 18 of those towns, it’s been at least 28 years."

There is, however, a lot more relevant data and research to share, like evidence of the segregation of Connecticut neighborhoods, the long-term consequences of neighborhoods [pdf] for the social mobility of residents, and the high costs of living in neighborhoods with better schools.

A common narrative throughout all the political histories and research presented in this article: Democratic state leadership has allowed local control land use control to perpetuate sources of inequality. The Connecticut  Governor Ned Lamont hasn't yet voiced support for changing the status quo.

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Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in ProPublica
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