The Significance of Affordable Housing

MaTaeya McFadden, COL ’25, Hartford, CT

This summer I interned at Open Communities Alliance (OCA) which is a Connecticut-based civil rights organization that promotes access to opportunity for all people through education, organizing, advocacy, research, and partnerships, and to support policies that lead to housing choice here in Hartford, Connecticut. When I originally applied for this internship I was leaning more on the law and policy aspect considering I was interested in being a lawyer. However, through my academic career my interests shifted to social work in which OCA was still a great fit. This experience taught me how to improve my social skills, considering that I do struggle with social anxiety, and it allowed me to connect to so many different people that otherwise I would’ve never met and heard their stories. Every single person that I met taught me so many new things about housing in Connecticut and made me realize that this state is not as progressive as I thought it was and there still is a lot of work that needs to be done surrounding the development of affordable and non-discriminatory housing.

Throughout my time within this internship, I also conducted some research around which CT towns implemented the best Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies within town employment and education and how OCA can contribute to these practices. Through my research I met with a plethora of people from school superintendents to school DEI directors as well as people who are involved with churches that help fight for affordable housing and other justice issues. I also spoke with people who have housing vouchers as well as section 8 and listened to their stories about the horrors surrounding government assistance and how sometimes these corporations that are supposed to provide aid actually deter aid in some instances. On the other hand, I also connected with organizations such as My Sisters’ Place Inc. that work closely with helping people navigate the government assistance system and acquire living that they so desperately need. All of these wonderful people further strengthened my connection and passion towards justice surrounding housing.

Aside from in office duties, this experience also allowed me to create bonds with my coworkers as we did bonding activities like visiting museums like the Pequot Museum and touring my bosses milk farm in CT. This taught me how to create a balance within the work environment in order to get to know who you are working with and learn where everyone’s passion for their work comes from or just the different backgrounds that everyone has. I want to end this experience with a quote from a book titled “In Defense of Housing” that I was introduced to that really spoke to my new found understanding of the importance of affordable housing:

“Ultimately, the problem with making housing a commodity is that as such, living space will be distributed based on the ability to pay and provided to the extent that it produces a profit. But the ability to pay is unequal while the need for a place to live is universal. There is thus an unavoidable contradiction.” -David Madden and Peter Marcuse

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services