Environmental protection or 'NIMBY tool'? Inland wetlands agencies growing site of CT housing fights
What happens when the need for affordable housing in an increasingly expensive state clashes with environmental concerns heightened by the arrival of climate change?
Local inland wetlands commission meetings get a lot more interesting.
Under Connecticut law, towns must regulate development affecting inland wetlands and watercourses, which they do through local agencies whose specific names and processes vary from place to place. And in one community after another, these agencies have been the sites of bitter housing debates, often derailing developments before they can even reach local zoning boards.Read more
The year 2035 seems to come up a lot lately in conversations about the state of the state. A dozen years pushes us far enough out that we can imagine anything we want and yet it’s soon enough that we need to actually plan for it now.
Visions of where we’ll be in that year — led by the optimist-in-chief, Gov. Ned Lamont — have led to sharp debates lately as the centrist governor absorbs jabs from the right on energy and taxes and from the left on social spending and affordable housing, as advocates gear up for another battle in the legislature to loosen towns' vice grip on zoning.Read more
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that housing discrimination exacerbates asthma symptoms in children.
“In this census tract right here where we stand, there are 268 people out of every 10,000 who have asthma,” said Erin Boggs, a civil rights lawyer and executive director, Open Communities Alliance. “In Glastonbury [the next town over], the same statistic is seven out of 10,000.”Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2023
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UPDATED STATEMENT OF ERIN BOGGS ON THE DEMISE OF FAIR SHARE HOUSING PROPOSAL
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT — Today, a decision was made to pull the Fair Share Planning and Zoning proposal from an omnibus housing bill. The Fair Share proposal, which would have been a major step towards addressing Connecticut’s housing crisis, creating integrated housing choices, and kickstarting the state's economy, was one of the most meaningful and outcome-focused zoning reform bills proposed nationwide.
With the hard work of many of the advocates, including the Growing Together Connecticut Consortium and the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, and legislative partners including Rep. Luxenberg, Majority Leader Rojas, and Senators Looney and Duff – the bill advanced through the Legislature with its critical components intact. These core elements included a meaningful calculation of the need for affordable housing, a municipal planning process, and enforcement.
Unfortunately, after advancing out of the Housing Committee process largely intact, the Fair Share proposal was subsequently and consistently watered down. During those several months, we met with dozens of legislators and tried our best to address their concerns. We made significant concessions to them on almost every section of the bill, including the number of units to be built and the timeframe to implement the Fair Share plan. What we were not willing to compromise on was the notion that the bill needed to contain a meaningful enforcement mechanism that would have forced non-complying towns to do something meaningful. Without that, the entire concept doesn’t work.
To those who will claim “victory” about this development, you are responsible for perpetuating the housing crisis the state faces. You are holding back our economy, and for continuing to make Connecticut an unaffordable place to live for young people starting their first jobs, for middle-class workers who don’t make a ton of money, and for seniors who desperately want to stay in the communities they’ve lived in their entire lives. You are, even today, too often acting in violation of state statutes and the state constitution, which require towns to advance economic opportunity and to tackle segregation.
Despite our disappointment, this session provided a tremendous opportunity to educate policy leaders, stakeholders, and community members about Fair Share and to build a base of strong support for future advocacy. We connected to thousands of people across the state who believe that all towns should welcome people who need for affordable housing and when the towns refuse to do so, the state, which delegated the power to zone to towns to begin with, has an obligation to step in.
Open Communities Alliance (OCA) is a Connecticut-based civil rights nonprofit organization that promotes access to opportunity for all people through education, organizing, advocacy, research, and partnerships. OCA’s ambitious mission of unwinding Connecticut’s history of government-perpetuated segregation focuses on reducing social, economic, and health disparities experienced by low-income families of color and generating access to “opportunity” by establishing pathways to affordable housing in thriving communities. For more information, please visit ctoca.org.
A new report from a New Jersey agency outlines how a state policy that requires towns to provide their “fair share” of the regional need for affordable housing has worked to double the rate of affordable housing production, ramp up the number of multi-family dwellings and integrate communities in recent years.
The policy, established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1975, is the basis for a zoning reform proposal making its way through Connecticut’s legislature. The New Jersey Fair Share Housing Center on Wednesday released a report on the policy’s successes, as well as lessons for other states to implement fair share. In 2015, New Jersey reinvigorated enforcement of the policy, and Wednesday’s report outlined the results of that work.Read more
Should Connecticut prioritize constructing affordable housing in economic hubs like New Haven, or exclusive towns like New Haven’s surrounding suburbs?
Two housing construction advocates offered different answers to that question at a panel organized by the Housing Authority of New Haven/Elm City Communities on Thursday night.
The panel, focused on the state’s need for more housing and how zoning reform can achieve that goal, comprised Mike Kingsella, CEO of the national housing advocacy organization Up For Growth, and Erin Boggs, executive director of the Connecticut non-profit Open Communities Alliance.Read more
Lawmakers have moved several zoning reform measures through the committee process this session, a major part of Democrats’ push to address the housing crisis in Connecticut.
The Planning and Development Committee finished its last scheduled meeting of the legislative session Friday and passed House Bill 6890, also known as the Work, Live, Ride bill. Members also approved Gov. Ned Lamont’s housing bill, which includes financial support for transit-oriented development.
Earlier this year, the Housing Committee also passed House Bill 6633, the fair share bill. It would require towns to plan and zone for a certain number of units of affordable housing based on the needs of the region, which would be determined in an assessment.
The Work, Live, Ride bill and the fair share bill aim to help address a lack of housing in Connecticut.Read more
The controversial Fair Share bill – affordable housing legislation that was killed in committee in 2021 – was back on the table at Tuesday’s Housing Committee public hearing along with a number of other bills up for discussion.
“There’s a consensus that we are in an affordable housing crisis. Connecticut, led by its political leaders, has an important decision to make – do we want to address zoning over-regulation and plan and zone for a sustainable economy and equitable future or not? It’s really that simple,” said Erin Boggs, executive director of Open Communities Alliance, who spoke in favor of the bill.Read more
A group of top-ranking state lawmakers are eyeing a series of legislative fixes following a Hearst Connecticut Media Group investigation which found many low-income residents who received government subsidies to help them afford rent were ultimately unable to use the aid.
The proposals include lifting onerous restrictions on where affordable housing vouchers can be used, creating a centralized waiting list to simplify the application process and requiring agencies to post online how much vouchers are worth and rules around their use.
Other ideas call for getting landlords who accept vouchers paid faster and improving landlord confidence in the program so more are willing to participate.Read more
Advocates for a bill that would spread the need for affordable housing across the state instead of allowing it to concentrate in cities, pointed to recent poll results as evidence that Connecticut residents are ready for “transformative change.”
The survey of 2,562 registered voters by Embold Research found that 73% believe there should be “housing options in every town for residents of all incomes.” The remaining 27% said those who can’t afford market-rate housing in a town “need to move somewhere else.”Read more