On one point, there seems to be bi-partisan agreement among state legislators and many of those who testified during the Planning and Development Committee’s marathon 24-hour hearing on affordable housing this week: For many people, living in Connecticut is too expensive.
But fault lines emerged during the contentious hearing on how to remedy the high housing costs and the segregation that festers between poor and tony municipalities.
“A lot of us last summer realized that we needed to do a lot more around the inherent structural racism that exists in our society,” said Committee Co-chairman Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, referring to the disproportionate toll the coronavirus has had on Black and Latino residents and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. “We certainly have very diverse viewpoints among our committee members, but I’m confident that working together we will come forward with legislation that will probably make everyone slightly unhappy but hopefully will move the ball forward for us as a state.”
In an effort to respect local control — but not allow towns to ignore their obligations under the Federal Fair Housing laws — another bill would leave it entirely up to municipalities to determine how to provide their so-called “fair share” of affordable housing but would attach strict enforcement mechanisms if a town’s plan or implementation is not ambitious enough. The fair share would be determined after a housing-needs assessment is completed and overseen by the state. After that, each town would be required to provide a specific number of affordable housing units to meet that need.
The plan is modeled after the Mount Laurel case in New Jersey, where the courts required towns to provide low-income residents the opportunity to live in their communities.
Many ideas, but little agreement, on how to address Connecticut’s affordable housing issues, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Mirror, Mar. 18, 2021, available here