The quest for affordable housing has divided cities like New Haven from suburbs like Branford. But it doesn’t have to, Sean Scanlon says.
He tells a story about his grandfather to explain why.
Scanlon, a a 31-year-old Democrat whose day job is handling communications for U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, is currently running unopposed for a third term representing Guilford and Branford’s Pine Orchard and Stony Creek neighborhoods in the state House of Representatives.
He split with his fellow Branford state representative, Lonnie Reed, in 2017 on a bill that weakened a law that pushed for developers to build affordable housing in the suburbs. Reed voted for it, Scanlon against.
Which, in his case, wasn’t the popular thing to do in Branford, where public meetings have featured repeated fights against development projects that include affordable housing.
Asked on an episode of WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” about why he took that stand, Scanlon told the story about his grandfather, Joe Lavalle.
“My grandfather was a firefighter here in New Haven. They lived on Greenwich Avenue with my grandmother,” Scanlon said.
“He secretly saved up a whole bunch of money secretly for a long time. One night he came home one Sunday and annoucned to his whole family that he had had saved up enough money and they were going to move to Guilford.
“Rather than be excited about that , they laughed at him. They said, ‘Joe, there’s cows. There’s dirt roads there. Why the heck would you want to move to Guilford?’
“I think my grandfather understood something that they didn’t at the time, that he could give my aunt and my mom a better chance of living that American Dream type life at that time in a place like Guilford than maybe he could in a place like New Haven.”
Today, Scanlon continued, a firefighter wouldn’t necessarily have the same chance to buy a home in Guilford.
“That dream is not a for a lot of peole anymore either in New Haven or in Guilford. A lot reason for that affordable housing is not an option for a lot of people. My grandfather today, if he was living in New Haven as a firefighters, probably couldn’t afford a hosue in Guilford like he could in 1955. So I think that we need to go to great lengths to make sure that there is affordable housing in our communities.”
In general, Scanlon said, “My success in my district and New Haven’s success in its district are inextricably tied together.”
In the WNHH interview, Scanlon also discussed his ongoing efforts to pass laws that address the state’s opioid crisis. He spoke as well about his working relationship with Branford’s Republican first selectman, Jamie Cosgrove. “I work well with Jamie,” Scanlon said. He said “part of the problem” in politics now is that not enough people “talk to each other” or work together across the aisle.
Click on the Facebook Live video to hear the full interview with State Rep. Sean Scanlon on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”