HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Nearly half a dozen bills before state lawmakers on the planning and development committee center on the debate over how much affordable housing a community must-have. Supporters say it’s about desegregating Connecticut.
Opponents claim taking local control away from a community will have a negative impact.
“Reducing barriers and allowing in a very kinda targeted way…people of all demographics and socio-economic backgrounds to be able to live and work and learn where they want to,” said State Senator Derek Slap from West Hartford.
How much affordable housing a community should have and where it should be located is up for debate at the capitol.
Several bills mandate large towns put affordable housing near transit stations, along Main Street.
Smaller towns would be required to allow affordable housing with no action from local zoning boards.
If the town doesn’t comply with the proposed state law, it goes into effect until the town complies.
“To me, I read that as our state telling local municipalities if you don’t follow it your regulations are null and void,” State Senator Tony Hwang a Republican at Fairfield.
At times the debate centered on targeted racism. State Representative Doug Dubitsky, a Republican from Norwich, asked, “Are you saying there are cities or towns right now as of today that continue to use zoning in order to advance racially discriminatory practices?”
“I’m not alleging that that is any towns motivation, but that is often the impact,” answered State Senator Derek Slap.
Supporters testified Connecticut is one of the most racially and economically segregated states in the country. Written testimony from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving sites 74 percent of Black residents and 68 percent of Latinx residents live in census tracts assessed as “low opportunity areas.”
The Mayor of the Capitol City of Hartford also spoke on behalf of the Conference of Municipalities representing nearly all 169 towns.
“Young people often struggle to afford homes here. older residents struggle to stay in the community where they have long-lived. And in a state if we are being honest with ourselves we have some of the most profound and stark disparities,” testified Mayor Luke Bronin.
The Connecticut Council of Small towns took a different tack.
“A one-size-fits-all state-mandated approach to affordable housing is simply not workable. Housing and other developments are severely limited in areas where there are no public sewers or water supplies. In addition, fast track as-of-right approvals don’t provide towns with the opportunity to fully consider how developments may impact traffic safety, parking issues, wastewater capacity, and other public health and safety issues.”
The debate also centers on getting rid of the phrase “character of the district” from zoning regulations, instead opting for “architectural standards.” By state law municipalities already have to submit an affordable housing plan by 2023.