Lindsay Mathews, DesegregateCT
Sixty years ago, when I was growing up in a small town in central Connecticut, I hardly saw a single Black child in our schools, parks, or places of worship.
Today, nothing has changed.
That our state is still segregated is no accident. In part, our state is deeply segregated because many Connecticut communities have adopted “exclusionary zoning” laws to restrict the kinds of housing most Black people can afford to buy. Research shows that the vast majority of Connecticut towns practice exclusionary tactics like large minimum lot sizes, bans on multi-family housing, and minimum unit size requirements. Black ownership is further stymied because of a lack of access to subsidized mortgages. This financing gap has been well-documented by organizations like the Brookings Institution and the Federal Reserve.
After the murder of George Floyd, many grassroots organizations formed in order to tackle the weighty legacy of structural racism that surrounds us and our communities.
DesegregateCT is one such organization. It is a statewide organization of activists and more than 70 coalition members who are passionate about the idea that through legislation, our commitment to equality can be realized by working to change zoning laws. Over the last year, the group successfully advocated for legalizing accessory apartments, reducing parking mandates, requiring zoning regulations to “affirmatively further” fair housing, instituting commission-er training requirements, and more.
After DesegregateCT’s legislative victory, Sara Bronin said, “A year and a day after we first met – thanks to our coalition, team, and supporters, and the many housing advocates that laid the groundwork over the years – Public Act 21-29 (HB6107) became law. It is an important step toward a more affordable, sustainable, and economically dynamic state, and it marks the first significant update to the State’s Zoning Enabling Act in decades.”
Governments at every level may have forced us to live apart. However, DesegregateCT has proven that it is possible to pass zoning laws that will bring us together, if we are willing to do the work.
Go to desegregatect.org to join the fight to undo restrictive zoning laws in Connecticut.