Affordable Housing

Our vitality as a community and our quality of life are at stake if affordable housing continues to remain beyond the reach of everyday workers. In this issue we take a look at steps taken across the towns in the Northwest Corner to address the need, and revisit the underlying factors that define that need.

In story after story about the shortage of affordable housing in our communities, we have cited the long waiting lists that families and individuals face for a home they could afford. In a Page One story, Sadie Leite, a former Lakeville Journal intern who will pursue graduate study in journalism this fall at Northwestern University, provides a town-by-town status report of completed projects, ongoing efforts and the remaining need for affordable housing.

There are tens of thousands of positions across our county in small businesses, volunteer emergency services, healthcare facilities and in other fields — like daycare and banks and schools— that are essential to our way of life yet pay under $50,000 a year. At that pay scale, those families and individuals would qualify for affordable housing if it was attainable.
In the Northwest Corner, many households spend more than half their income on housing. Many workers commute more than 45 minutes because they can’t afford to live closer to work.

The problem is exacerbated by an aging populace. Nearly half the population of Litchfield County is 55 and older. And for the past quarter century, the trend has shown an increase in the number of households with people over 65 and a decline of those with members under 18 years old.

The housing stock in our communities and its price point no longer meets the needs of a diversified community. Almost two-thirds of households in Litchfield County have one or two members, but only about one-third of housing stock is suited for such a household.

As the older population ages, a three- or four-bedroom home no longer makes sense for aging-in-place, while downsizing with less upkeep appeals to many. Yet, absent those options in many communities, older residents often stay in their multi-bedroom homes.

The supply of homes for sale remains somewhat limited, yet prices have been rising beyond the reach of many of our most in-demand jobs. Second homes can comprise up to a third of the housing stock in some of our communities, impacting availability.

We applaud the work of housing advocates, planners, housing trusts and committees and citizens in Salisbury, Cornwall, Sharon, Kent, Falls Village, North Canaan and Norfolk to address affordable housing needs. That praise also goes for the Litchfield County Center for Housing Development that supports housing nonprofits in the county.

Affordable housing is a national problem that we face in our own back yard and our future depends on what we do as a community to address the problem.

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