Legislative session brings reason for hope

The recently concluded 2024 legislative session in Connecticut was a tough one for supporters of fair housing. A number of bills aimed at alleviating our growing crisis fell short of passage, and budgetary considerations made funding new initiatives a challenge. Still, there is reason for optimism as we start preparing for the 2025 session.

On the bright side, the General Assembly approved increased funding for Connecticut’s homelessness response system. It wasn’t as much as advocates had hoped to see, but the money from federal pandemic relief funds will help many people in need. 

Other proposals did not do as well. The Assembly did not approve more funding for the state’s Rental Assistance Program, which, given the increase in rents across the state, will inevitably mean that fewer people will be served by the program. A concurrent proposal to set assistance levels to a more targeted geographic level, rather than across a wider metropolitan area, which would have the effect of helping people afford housing in all neighborhoods, also failed.

Proposals rewarding towns that allow the development of affordable housing, which is critical to any long-term housing solution, also came up short, along with new tenant protections. The Housing Growth Fund, which would provide financial support to municipalities contributing to addressing the state’s affordable housing need; a bill that would require landlords to have a good reason before they evict people from their rental units; and a bill to create a fund for sewer line connections for the purposes of building affordable housing all cleared their respective committees, but did not win approval in the wider Assembly.

Other bills aimed at supporting fair housing supported by groups outside our Growing Together Connecticut coalition met a similar fate. With state leaders deciding not to alter the two-year budget passed in 2023, there were strict limitations on what could be accomplished this year.

Still, the fight for better opportunities for everyone in Connecticut is not over. Advocates learned a lot this session, and our work with dedicated legislators and other decision makers will inspire our plans for future sessions. It’s clear that state leaders recognize they can’t look away from the state’s biggest crisis, which is a lack of affordable housing.

For starters, Open Communities Alliance will advocate for the reintroduction of Fair Share legislation in 2025. This plan, which would calculate the state’s affordable housing needs by municipality and require towns to allow construction of the homes we need, is based on a successful program in New Jersey, where thousands of homes have been built to start filling that state’s needs. (Towns aren’t required to build the housing themselves, only to allow it to be built.)

By doing the same in Connecticut, we can start to build toward our fair-housing goals while allowing towns to decide for themselves how and where that housing will be built. Those decisions will remain at the local level – what will change is that towns will no longer be able to simply say no to most plans, as is the case now.

Looking to the future, we are deeply grateful to the legislative leaders who championed these proposals. We have high hopes for Fair Share and other plans in 2025, and look forward to your continued help and support as we move forward.

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