“If you’re serious about Black and brown lives, if you’re serious about income inequality, social inequality, and racial inequality, please join us in helping tear down the legal barriers that make Connecticut one of the most segregated states in the country.”

This is what Sara Bronin, a lead organizer with the Desegregate CT campaign, said at a press conference recently on the steps of the State Capitol.

The State of Connecticut and the Town of Darien alike have long histories of explicitly racist housing policies. As a result, today, in 2020, 50 percent of Connecticut’s African American and Latino population live on 2% of the state’s land. Two-thirds of Connecticut’s African American and Latino population live in areas with “low” opportunity density. This is not an accident- this is by design.

Restrictive covenants, redlining, gentlemen’s agreements, and exclusionary zoning all helped produce the profound segregation that blights our state today. Obstinate refusal to substantively change course from the policies that got us here can only perpetuate an unjust status quo.

Housing discrimination underpins disparities in economic and educational opportunities across the state. Our metro area is in the 99th percentile nationally for income inequality and Fairfield County is in the 97th percentile for inequality in education funding. If we want to do anything about these issues, we must make bold changes to housing policy.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson rightly draws attention to a piece of legislation proposed by state senator Saud Anwar in a July 17 op-ed, where she clearly summarizes why housing advocates believe it is so important to address discriminatory zoning practices. In this letter, what she doesn’t say is just as powerful as what she does.

I encourage my fellow Darienites to look over this bill proposal, which you can find on Senator Anwar’s website, and to reach out to your representatives for their positions. While Darien has become somewhat more diverse and has made some progress on increasing access to affordable housing over the past few decades, I believe it is indefensible to suggest we have done all we can do or that our housing equity problems are all solved.

If you are sick and tired of living in a segregated town and a segregated state, let your representatives know, tell them why, and ask them to do something about it. Ask them to commit to proposals like increasing zoning allotments for multifamily housing. Ask them to address regulations relating to sewers, parking, and permitting that exist specifically to deter the development of affordable housing.

The costs of the status quo are far greater for those who are kept out of communities like ours than they are for the residents of said communities. But let’s stop pretending that housing inequities don't negatively impact our town’s community as well. Let’s give this issue the respect it deserves. Let’s cover it fairly and discuss it honestly.

Come on, Darien. We’ve been part of the problem for too long. Let’s be part of the solution.

Chris Janson is a Darien resident.