A controversial bill that would make it easier to file lawsuits against towns if they didn’t support new affordable housing, has quietly died amid a Republican threat to filibuster the issue in a crucial legislative committee.
The bill was a centerpiece of desegregation, zoning and economic development policy for advocates and liberal Democrats who saw 2021 as a chance to make progress in a decades-old battle. Hopes for a clean path to voted in the House and Senate ended late Monday.
But House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said Tuesday that it’s a minor setback in one of his chief goals for the legislative session: promoting affordable housing units throughout the state to foster economic growth.
Supporters want the wide-ranging bill, which has changed significantly in recent weeks, to advance racial and economic integration in some of Connecticut’s overwhelmingly white, upscale towns. Opponents, many in those towns, including loud opposition in Greenwich, say the bill would remove local control over the “character” of their communities, especially in the town centers, where rules could change.
Stafstrom and Rojas acknowledged that the section about legal remedies likely needed redrafting, but he noted that courts already have to deal with an affordable housing appeals law. Erin Boggs, a housing advocate who helped draft the legislation, said Tuesday that the legal remedies are needed in whatever legislation can emerge from the General Assembly before its adjournment at midnight, June 9.
Boggs, founder and executive director of Open Communities Alliance, which promotes equitable access to housing across Connecticut, said supporters hoped for bipartisan backing.
“This bill holds appeal across differing geographies of Connecticut and across party lines because it really strikes that balance between local control and the need to make some fundamental changes to the way we do zoning, to provide the affordable housing that the state needs,” Boggs said Tuesday.
Boggs said the enforcement provision is “absolutely required” to make the bill “meaningful.” Some legislators have chosen to focus on that piece of the bill rather than the crux of what it sets out to do, which is to “set up a structure for towns to contribute to the state’s affordable housing needs while maintaining local zoning control.”
Controversial housing reform stumbles but Democrats vow to revive it, Ken Dixon, CT Insider, May 4, 2021, available here