Examining Connecticut’s Housing Inequality–The Racial Gulf Between Cities And Suburbs

Larry Merly, the city attorney during the Tom Bucci mayoral years.

The health pandemic has created a hot housing market in Connecticut, fleeing New Yorkers embracing the open spaces of Fairfield County where exclusionary zoning creates a double-edged sword.

More than 30 years ago Bridgeport’s irrepressible City Attorney Larry Merly was a virtuous voice in a lonely call to action arguing that large-acre discriminatory zoning in the suburbs forced the heavy concentration of public housing, tax-exempt property and social institutions into cities.

“Public housing” and “affordable housing” became code references of segregation blocking poorer interests of mostly black and brown faces from the option of greener pastures.

Connecticut Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas has authored several articles highlighting the vast housing inequality in one America’s wealthiest states. Her latest piece focuses on the value of homeownership in urban renewal and the vast gulf in housing opportunities.

Homeownership has long been one of the best ways for families to accumulate wealth, but for generations, it has been elusive for many Black and Latino families and for those interested in owning in certain communities. Almost 85 years ago, federal officials and mortgage lenders began rating mortgage risk based on neighborhood, race, ethnicity and economic status and refused to lend outside of white areas–a practice known as redlining–and many white homeowners refused to sell to minorities. Though the practice was outlawed years ago, the consequence of perpetuating poverty festers, since it prevented minority residents from building wealth through homeownership.

Making the inequality even worse today are exclusionary local zoning requirements that thrive throughout Connecticut. Requiring a single-family home be on a lot that is at least one acre, or forbidding duplexes from being constructed, drive up the cost of purchasing a home and continue to put homeownership out of reach for many Black and Latino families. Connecticut also has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation, and so in many parts of Connecticut cities, it doesn’t make financial sense to purchase a home that needs major renovations because the owner will be underwater on that investment immediately.

The outcome is jarring: White residents in Connecticut are twice as likely to own a home than are people of color. Compared to other states, Connecticut has the second-largest gap for homeownership rates between its white and Latino residents, the largest gap between mixed-race and white residents, and the 15th biggest gap between Black and white residents, a CT Mirror analysis of Census data shows.

Full story here.



    1. Bob, you know that there a lot of people who post on OIB don’t believe Larry Merly and the that article states and they give their real name. In the 1960s, sociologist John McKnight coined the term “redlining” to describe the discriminatory practice of fencing off areas where banks would avoid investments based on community demographics. During the heyday of redlining, the areas most frequently discriminated against were black inner city neighborhoods. Wat was going on in America during the 1960’s, protest and marches for equal rights for blacks and to many whites rejected having blacks living next to them and having their children sitting next to blacks in schools.

      Yes, Larry Merly was a virtuous voice in a lonely call to action arguing that large-acre discriminatory zoning in the suburbs forced the heavy concentration of public housing, tax-exempt property and social institutions into cities and I’m thankful for his foresight about Connecticut. Bridgeport and Connecticut are still not doing dealing with the issue.

  1. This is an issue of pure political will at the state capital to change our zoning statutes to enforce 10% density requirements on these segregated towns. It was one of the motivating reasons for my State Rep candidacy this year as I looked to share my knowledge and expertise.

    I have done a lot of consulting work in the space. Lamont is on the record that he does not want to take on the fight at the capital and that the towns should sort it out. Which is code for the status quo i just fine. In the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s HOLC maps were used to make banking decisions which basically got coined as “Redlining”. Those maps simply highlighted communities that banks would not lend to. Bad Zoning laws has lead to segregation by pricing families out and not allowing families paths to upward mobility in towns such as Darien, New Canann, and Wilton.

    My suggestion was always either these towns agree to 10% Density requirements or the pay the state a levy for not meeting regulations that can be used towards affordable housing projects of neighboring towns. But the burden of dealing with marginalized communities should not all be on cities like Bridgeport. These towns with single home zoning dominance should be penalized. It also doesn’t help that federal and state policies since the 60’s have advanced the problem, rather than create opportunities. One prime example right now was a change to the tax code disguised as an economic development tool for poor census tracts called “Opportunity Zones”. If anyone is interested in my work, check me out at http://www.ledbyusct.com .

    Sorry Lennie for the plug, it it’s not appropriate, feel free to remove.

    1. Kelvin,
      Forgive me, but im just engaging here as a concerned member of the community. Please correct me if im wrong, but integrated lower income families into upper class communities doesn’t necessarily make them middle class families just but forcing towns to adhere to 10% density by forcing multifamily homes.

      I have family in housing markets and other with economic background. I was always referenced with the idea that OWNING a house is always a better option than RENTING. Reason being is that your wealth and net worth comes from asset building. I also believe that if we increase the idea of more opportunities for lower income families to have the opportunity to owns properties it would create a more of a self pride behavior in owning properties and being part of those communities. Often times, people that rent dont care much for their communities because they might not be there the next year so they dont get too invested in its outreach or common goals. If we turned renters into owners, they would be more vested in the community that they own in as they have stakes in those communities now.

      I hope this makes sense and doesn’t contradict too much of your point. Just my take on it.

      1. Jo, It’s called “Equity” . Simply having access to live in a better community with better schools, access to amenities, and better quality of life stabilizes families and gives a path to upward mobility. Your assessment on renters is not correct. If you rent a crap hole than you are right there is no pride but if I’m renting a nice neighborhood, the pressure of belonging and becoming part of that community translates.

        Finally don’t confuse affordable housing with low income housing. It just means you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of income on your housing. If a Quadplex in Darien draws rent of $1500/mo per unit compared to a mortgage of $2800 for a home, it allows a family a pathway to live in that neighborhood if they choose. They get access to the amenities, public safety, education, just like the homeowner. Key word is “choose”. People should have the power to choose where they want to live based on what they can afford. These towns are not even offering options and that sir is the problem.

        1. Kelvin this is so true. Right now, people can’t even choose to live in Bridgeport with zero to no amenities, much less choose to live in a town like Darien and afford it! Rents in Bridgeport are getting up to $1400 for a two bedroom apartment and the school systems is underfunded, leaving the children undereducated. This continues the systematic poverty. My hope is that action is taken soon to open up these communities that have not been following the rules! It’s time for change within our state and urban communities!

      2. So Jo….. how do you like trying to explain something and then having to argue with these fools?!
        Now he wants to know what kind of minority you are. Just remember, if you happen to be black, then you probably ain’t black enough !

    2. Thank you Mr. Ayala.

      I appreciate the the response, though I think we can do both but building minority assets and wealth. That is my point of view as much as some of the bird brain trolls here think I’m trying to be racist because I tend to give another perspective. Thanks again. God bless

  2. Jo Stalling. Where do you live? Not in Bridgeport I can tell from what you just wrote.
    This is so much BS.
    You just don’t want minorities in your city or town. But if you must, you must be able to afford to live there. Mighty white of you.

    1. Bob you are an absolute embarrassment that you consider I’m white because I’m trying to promote avenues to grow minority wealth.

      If you used half of that bird brain you have and actually took in what I wrote you would understand. So let me explain this to you again sheep brain.

      I’m advocating for avenues that allow and promote minorities into OWNING properties over renting. Nobody that rents grows their wealth or asset folder. Paying rent is a waste of money. However if we can find ways to promote minorities purchasing homes at fair rates and first time homeowner programs it would benefit those lily white communities.

      So before you accuse me of something I’m not I ask you to use that little bird brain before advocating for minorities to remain sheep.

      I’m from Bridgeport and I’m a minority if you must know and care. Clown.

  3. If Black’s could move into these neighborhoods whether renting or buying, wouldn’t they put their children in a better position to move to these exclusive neighborhoods by virtue of getting a quality education? Wouldn’t their children have a better opportunity in life by receiving a quality education whether renting or owning? Some people aren’t interested in growing their wealth or asset folder, they just want better opportunities for their children so that they can grow their wealth and asset folders.

    1. Don that’s lie. If I walk up to anyone and said you can live pay check to pay check in Stamford or I can get you started on owning properties and building assets that benefits you and your family long term , the majority would choose that.

      I’m sorry but it takes a certain level of intellect to understand many minorities put their lives in stalemates because they have no growth financially. We need to educate our people on this subject matter not assume this is what they want when they don’t know the other options.

      1. Jo Salling, if you are a minority then tell us which group you are or are you ashamed? Next, wouldn’t the minorities who can afford to reside in these areas wouldn’t they be like you?

        1. If you must know, in Afro-Carribean. Father is partially African American, mother is Puerto Rican, in born in Puerto Rico and move to Bridgeport as a child.

          So, with that being as needless to say as it was, I don’t get your point. My personal opinion is that we should use our effort to help more minorities own in these suburban communities.

          There is a such thing as social disorganization. The continuous needing to move in and out of various neighborhoods causes in settlement, which has proven to be directly correlated to crime proven by Shaw and McKay.

          Sir please reference a single intellectual anecdote before you ever question who I am, what I am, and what I represent. My race and ethnic background should have absolutely ZERO to die with the ideas of progressing minorities from the community I am from!

          Therefore, I am offended at your racist bigotry in these posts constantly! When you can’t reflect on an intellectual spectrum, you choose to deflect on a racial one. Please walk away now sheep.

          1. Jo Salling, you made a number of racist bigotry and condescending comments and Bob Walsh, Don Day and myself called you out your holier than thou comments like these below:

            “I’m sorry but it takes a certain level of intellect to understand many minorities put their lives in stalemates because they have no growth financially. We need to educate our people on this subject matter not assume this is what they want when they don’t know the other options.” and, “it takes a certain level of intellect to understand many minorities put their lives in stalemates because they have no growth financially. We need to educate our people on this subject matter not assume this is what they want when they don’t know the other options.”

            Don Day reply to you saying, “Some people aren’t interested in growing their wealth or asset folder, they just want better opportunities for their children so that they can grow their wealth and asset folders.”

  4. So Jo…… like I said…. your not black enough or not Puerto Rican enough etc to meet their standards. Even if you were-you wouldn’t be-unless you agreed with everything that these whiz bangs say. They are however very successful at forwarding their narrative by shutting down anyone who does not have their skewed point of view. They obviously enjoy living in their own minds and keeping those same minds closed tightly to anything that might make even the hint of sense.
    Cheers pal! And know that there are many that agree with you but won’t put themselves out there like we do to argue with these idiots. I thoroughly enjoy their attempts to marginalize what’s said here even when it’s obviously worded in a facetious manner and tossed to them like bait to blind fish!!!

  5. Jo Salling, help me understand exactly what do you mean when you say this, “Father is partially African American.” Exactly what is a partially Black person? Is that like being a little pregnant?

    Rich, you’re still bitter about that fact that we’ve called attention to your blatant bigotry? You know what you are and we certainly know what you are so just wear it like you’ve done your whole bigoted life. Let’s not get it twisted! It’s not Black versus White, it’s Black versus Racism. Since you don’t understand that then the problem is YOU!! Any questions?

    1. Lmao!! Again – anyone reading my comments then reading yours just proves what I said. Go back to your knotty head nip and crawl back under that rock!
      Oh by the way, soon you’ll pay an additional 5 cent deposit on the nip as it’s included in the proposed massive tax increase by Lamont.
      Cheers!!!! Lol!!!!!

      1. You see Jo.. what did I say?!! You ain’t black enough!!! Try to explain what “partially” is to this jerk!! Just kidding…..don’t waste your time.

    2. Again, since you choose to avoid my context and strictly focus on my racial background, because I suppose I’m not minority enough for you.

      My fathers grandfathers come from other Afro Caribbean islands. Settling in Puerto Rico. We are born and bred in Puerto Rico with African backgrounds in our ancestry.

      Thus I am a minority. If this offends you how I identify myself that’s a personal problem for you. So please if you wish to engage In intellectual dialogue then fine, we can. If you wish to race bait for your personal narrative, the in the words of the great Ernie Newton “ Miss me with that bs” .

      Rich, I know, some people here are here merely to divide and marginalize anyone who isn’t “black enough” for them.

      1. Yes, again that’s so true. This is why people like them will NEVER and can never get anything accomplished for what they describe as their people’s ‘plight’.
        Like I say to them once in a while, I just like to throw baited comments at them because they are not worth a really intelligent conversation about the issues.
        Note that there are no comments as of yet from them at 10A.M.!!
        Hangovers are a bitch!!!! Lol!!

  6. Jo Salling, I never questioned whether you are Black enough or anything of the sort. I merely asked as a 70 year old Black man in America, Exactly what is a partially Black person? I’ve never heard this phraseology used in my 70 years and wondered what it meant. Jo Salling, you let the bigot Rich influence your response to my question to you which is a damn shame! Personally I don’t care what your ethnicity is and just because you refer to being a minority does nothing to my respecting your opinions on this subject, race in America or anything else. I don’t respect the opinions of Clarence Thomas, Tim Scott or a myriad of other Black’s because we as a people are not a monolith and as a person of color you should understand that!

    Finally, Rich just continue to pay your city taxes so that I can continue to drive my two Mercedes, you paid off my home in the suburbs and my two week vacation I had in Italy (pictures are available) and will pay for our two week vacation in France and Amsterdam in July. I say this to say, I don’t have one concern about deposit on any type of bottle because I’m literally living the American dream. Just keep paying your taxes, OK?

      1. Hey hey….. easy does it Ron. Don’t preach to Don or he won’t chauffeur you around in one of his two Mercedes Benz’s or invite you to France, Amsterdam or Italy next time he goes. Two weeks each!!!!
        Don….Amsterdam? You meant Amsterdam Avenue right?!!
        And I “paid off your home in the suburbs” huh?! I guess if my tax dollars went toward your mortgage you must have been on welfare right?!!!
        You guys are so much fun!

  7. Ouch Rich, don’t hate on me because I’m living Good. It bothers you that a Black man is living the life that you think you deserve? LMAO, work hard, save your money and maybe, just maybe you too can live like Black man.


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