OpenWoodbridge.jpgOn Tuesday, August 30, 2022, a group of plaintiffs filed a major civil rights lawsuit in Connecticut state court, challenging the zoning policies of the Town of Woodbridge, CT, a suburb adjacent to New Haven. Among the plaintiffs is Open Communities Trust, LLC (OCT), an affordable housing development trust launched by the Open Communities Alliance. The plaintiffs allege that Woodbridge's zoning violates the state’s Zoning Enabling Act and Fair Housing Act, as well as the due process, equal protection, and anti-segregation clauses of the state Constitution. 

Woodbridge has violated these laws by barring a wide variety of multifamily housing from being built within the Town. Woodbridge prohibits multifamily housing of three units or more in the 98.4% of Woodbridge’s residential land area that lacks access to public water and sewer and requires burdensome special exception review in the remaining 1.6% for all forms of multifamily housing. The Town’s actions particularly harm Black and Latino families and households receiving governmental housing assistance, all of whom have disproportionately lower incomes and therefore a greater need for affordable housing. Woodbridge’s restrictive zoning also denies current residents the opportunity to live in a diverse community.

Along with OCT, which is leasing and has an option to purchase property in Woodbridge to build a multifamily, mixed-income residential structure that would include affordable housing, plaintiffs include 2 Orchard Road LLC, the owner of the property, and two Woodbridge residents – Sally Connolly and Cary Gross – who are harmed by the lack of racial and economic diversity in their town.

In September 2020, OCA submitted a proposal to amend the Town’s zoning code. Woodbridge responded with zoning amendments that continue the Town’s long history of failing to provide meaningful opportunities for multifamily and affordable housing development. Likewise, Woodbridge has taken no meaningful action to meet its legal responsibility to plan and zone in a way that accommodates a fair portion of its region’s need for affordable housing.

“For decades, Woodbridge’s zoning has erected unjustifiable barriers preventing lower and moderate income families, who are disproportionately families of color, from moving to town," said Erin Boggs, founding Executive Director of OCA. "Woodbridge’s unduly restrictive zoning fails to address the stark regional need for affordable housing, disparately harms Black and Latino households, and deepens economic and racial segregation in the area." 

We are grateful to WilmerHale, Timothy Hollister, The Garden Homes Fund, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School for partnering with us to #OpenWoodbridge.


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