Powerful Partnerships Promote Equitable Access to Housing in Fairfield County
Jun 26, 2023
In many ways, opportunity in my life is closely linked to my parents’ housing choices and access.
Though they had very moderate incomes and limited higher educational opportunities, my parents had the foresight to become homeowners at young ages.
That decision gave me security, stability, and a wealth of warm memories.
But it also offered our family something more tangible. Homeownership was the single greatest asset building opportunity to which my parents had access. It put my family on a new path, helping to ensure that I and my siblings could attend college — and become the first generation of our family to earn undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. It also enabled my parents to retire securely.
As a result, housing is a personal issue for me — and it’s an issue that has been at the center of our work at the Community Foundation since our earliest days.
We believe that equitable access to safe, stable, affordable housing in communities of opportunity is the foundation of a thriving Fairfield County — and it’s a central piece of our mission of partnering with our community to create a region where every person has an equitable opportunity to thrive.
The word “partnering” is a critical part of our strategy — and our focus on partnership is perhaps best demonstrated through the work of the Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity (FCCHO).
While the Foundation has played a leadership role in FCCHO since its creation in 2018, we are not doing this work alone. FCCHO is a true partnership that brings together organizations such as our founding partners, The Housing Collective, Partnership for Strong Communities and Regional Plan Association. It also receives critical seed funding from JPMorgan Chase.
In five short years, the Center has become a leading regional advocate for affordable housing development and its success has led to the creation of similar centers in Litchfield County and Eastern Connecticut.
Utilizing a collaborative, data-driven regional approach, the FCCHO is working to expand and protect housing affordability in our community — with the goal of making housing affordable to people of all incomes and at all stages of life.
Unfortunately, we have a long way to go to achieve that vision. Fairfield County has the second highest income inequality in the nation — and housing affordability remains elusive for many, and particularly those with the lowest incomes.
Roughly three in five Black and Latinx renters in Fairfield County are spending more than 30% of their gross monthly income on housing — a reality that is at least partly fueled by the fact that our community has an estimated shortage of more than 25,000 affordable units.
But FCCHO is working to change these conditions by gathering and sharing data and information; bringing together advocates; and offering technical support to local and state government to find solutions to our housing challenges. It has created valuable resources — such as the AffordCT open-source housing database, the Planning for Affordability Guidebook and the Affordable Housing Plan Scorecards — to help municipalities better understand local housing needs and how to respond to them. And the Center’s collaborative approach allows partners to think creatively about how to address housing needs county-wide.
We are making real progress — and that progress is starting to get noticed outside of our community and state.
Earlier this month, I had the honor of representing Fairfield County’s Community Foundation as we received the 2023 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships, a national award issued annually by the Council on Foundations and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The award honors grantmakers and their public-sector partners that are working together to create innovative, place-based initiatives with lasting impact on housing and community development.
This recognition provides validation that we’re on the right track in our approach to addressing complex housing issues.
I invite you to join us on this journey and to learn more about how we are improving the quality of existing affordable housing through partnerships with public housing residents, like PT Partners; advocating for policy changes such as the recently bonded CT Housing Trust Fund; and investing in a portfolio of high-impact organizations working at the systems-change level to advance housing equity.
Mendi blue paca
PRESIDENT & CEO
FAIRFIELD COUNTY’S COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Want to learn more about how we are creating equitable access to safe, stable, affordable housing in communities of opportunity in our region? Contact Julian Pierce, Director of Economic Opportunity.
Want to find out how you can be a part of the solution? Contact Joe Collin, Vice President of Philanthropy.