Civil Rights Group Hopes Proposed Zoning Change in Woodbridge Helps Desegregate Conn.

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A civil rights organization wants the Town of Woodbridge to be a blueprint for change across Connecticut.

The group Open Communities Alliance is asking the town to amend its zoning policies to allow for more affordable housing.

The group says similar policies in other towns have contributed to widespread segregation throughout the state.

“Everyone in this region and in this state should have the right to live anywhere they desire regardless of their race, wealth, or family situation,” said Executive Director Erin Boggs.

The group is hoping to build a combination of four market-rate and Section 8 units -- something that hasn’t been allowed in the town previously.

“The lack of diversity in the Amity School District and many other suburban school districts can be attributed almost entirely to zoning controls local governments used to exclude outsiders,” said Open Communities Alliance Co-chair Connie Royster.

After much research, the civil rights group and Yale law students say they chose Woodbridge as their building location because they say historically the town has resisted change.

“They were one of the first suburbs to use these practices of requiring super large lot sizes and banning multi-family housing,” said Yale law student Karen Anderson.

Woodbridge First Selectman Beth Heller said she wouldn't comment on the issue before a vote by the town's Plan & Zoning Commission.

The project would also have to go through a public hearing first.

The town’s zoning enforcement commissioner says the zoning commission can’t give its take on the application because it will ultimately make the ruling.

The housing advocates say cities shouldn’t be bearing the brunt of the affordable housing in the region.

“Exclusionary housing practices in places like Woodbridge put intense stress on the New Haven housing market, the Hartford housing market, the Stamford housing market to meet that regional need,” said Anika Singh Lemar, a clinical assistant professor at Yale Law School.

Open Communities Alliance hopes their application gets approved and thereafter sets a precedent that they say will build a foundation for a more welcoming Connecticut -- a state that has more affordable and more accessible housing for everyone, everywhere.

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