Opinion: So much to gain by desegregating CT

A man carries a Black Lives Matter sign last summer.

A man carries a Black Lives Matter sign last summer.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

The high cost of living in Connecticut is detrimental to the people expected to work, spend and raise families in our communities. Archaic zoning laws have essentially created an income barrier to owning property in select towns. Desegregate CT’s proposals — most of them found in SB 1024 — would correct this by allowing the building of multifamily housing units, smaller dwelling units in larger single-family properties, and eliminating public hearing burdens.

I’ve personally known a number of people who’ve moved out of North Haven, some who’ve even been residents their entire life, because of a lack of affordable housing options. These exclusionary tactics, whether intentional or not, reinforce notions of white supremacy in majority white suburban towns like North Haven by ensuring that our children do not go to school with diverse populations; that we do not hear the stories of neighbors from a multiplicity of backgrounds; that the bulk of interactions with minorities for many residents is through consumer interactions where minority workers service white customers; and that our insular communities are peppered with anecdotal and inflated stories of out-of-towners committing crimes.

This, ironically, has a major impact on the “character” of the community. In North Haven, this has meant mobs forming to make threats against minority student-led rallies against police violence, an Instagram page set up to share stories of racism experienced in the schools, and Native families speaking out against our insensitive school mascot.

Desegregate CT’s proposals will not solve all of these issues, but by allowing historically disadvantaged populations a chance to share in the privileges of well-established communities, it will tie everyone’s success together. It will encourage building bonds and bridges. Most importantly though, it will give the working class the option to live in the neighborhood and development of their choosing, something that shouldn’t be tied to income thresholds.

The model codes and redefinition of character within SB 1024 will even help redress the concerns being raised (though frequently being done in bad faith) on cosmetics and “character.” Lots of people are comfortable putting up Black Lives Matter signs in their front yards, but more concrete action is needed.

We need to stop looking at communities of need through a lens that implies that they are unworthy of being our neighbors or will be a threat to our safety and property values. Support SB 1024 so we can take the first step in desegregating Connecticut.

Timothy Gabriele lives in North Haven.