The notion of moving to Woodbridge by some New Haven families whose income is only 60 to 80 percent of the medium income is a worthy aspiration. It would not only help those moving to Woodbridge, but it would also bring diversity that would foster an understanding of others – a skill that would be valuable to the youth…and the adults of Woodbridge.
But the well-meaning proponents of the new apartment zoning laws have got it all wrong. Living in a home and living in an apartment are two entirely different things. A person living in a home is king (or queen) of the castle. They plant flowers, they mow the lawn, they put a swing in the back yard for their kids; they do thousands of things – it’s their castle. An apartment dweller has none of that. They can’t make too much noise. And can’t do many other things, and possibly can’t even have a dog. Basically, they just have an interior space and a car waiting to take them someplace else. Additionally, these families will want to fit in, but as apartment dwellers it will be tough. If these families are to simply live in apartments, they just as well live in Westville where they can walk to the store and have their kids bused to Woodbridge.
The answer is to rent actual Woodbridge homes to the said low income families. Over time the Government – federal and state – should buy and build modest homes in Woodbridge until the total is 10% (or some lower percentage) of the homes in Woodbridge. (And, of course, this is a program that should also be applied to towns all over America.) The cost of renting these homes to families would not be astronomical. The government can borrow money at almost no interest. And the real estate taxes might be $500 a month. At present, the government is spending money for public housing in New Haven.
Let me give you a little history about Woodbridge. I first moved into Woodbridge in the spring of 1946 – there were 2000 plus residents then. For high school the Woodbridge kids went to Hillhouse in New Haven. They called us hicks and farmers – although a majority of us were not farmers. The hicks and farmers did not in the 1930s create “snob zoning” or racial zoning. They were merely trying to protect their beautiful environment. They felt that 1 ½ acres was the minimum one needed for a country life and to maintain their beautiful country environment. There was no exclusivity involved in their thinking.
Of course, the builders are just trying to make money. But the well-meaning Yale law students and the Open Communities Alliance need to be much more progressive. They need to foster truly meaningful solutions. They need to get people into homes, not moving them from one apartment to another. Yes, they must use their smarts and be truly progressive.