Last week, there was a big Economic Development Summit at the Yale School of Organization and Management, organized by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. About 100 of Connecticut's leaders in many fields--including education, politics, business, and real estate development--met to review the State's progress in the five years since the last such meeting was held.
Almost everyone seemed to agree that Connecticut was doing very well right now, in many regards, albeit in some categories, it was improving from a low base, mostly where governmental policies and doing business were concerned. First the Governor, and then the mayors of the three biggest cities, weighed in on improvements and achievements. The mayors, however, went on to talk about the need for housing, especially affordable housing. They emphasized that the entire State had to participate in such an effort, not just the cities.
Shortage of Living Units
As the discussion went on, it was clear that this is a national problem, with the shortage of living units nationwide mentioned at 8.5 million. In our state, it is both a housing problem in general, and an affordable housing problem in addition, because it arose during an analysis of workforce development, another key metric that was raised. As one CEO stated, the amount of housing needed is so great that only "vertical" solutions will work--especially here, where there aren't green fields to convert to housing developments. Suburban speakers alternated with urban ones, as the back and forth resembled what is playing out in places all over Connecticut, with suburbs feeling unduly pressured to produce clustered housing, and cities resent their own burden in already doing so.
What was interesting was that this issue became the primary one debated, followed by work force and infrastructure (transportation). All of these points are an improvement over periods when it seemed as though everyone was leaving the State, but there is still a lot to do here, and elsewhere, to fill the jobs that exist and need to be done for economic growth and prosperity. It's always a good sign when leaders agree on the problems, but the solutions are not yet clear, and it is largely this lack of supply that it continuing to drive up home prices and rental rates. We all need to keep thinking, compromising, and working toward that goal.