Affordable housing bill advances

MILFORD >> The legislative delegation is rejoicing in the recent passage by the Housing Committee of a bill to update and reform the affordable housing law.

To become law, the measure must still pass the hurdle of the Senate and House and be signed by the governor.

State Rep. Pam Staneski R-119, said it was a team effort, including Reps. Charles Ferraro, R-117, and Kim Rose, D-118, and Sen. Gayle Slossberg, who introduced the bill aimed at giving more local control and preventing developers from forcing “unreasonable” housing developments onto Connecticut communities. The proposed law, 8-30g, would eliminate loopholes.

“Connecticut is the only state in the country that allows private developers carte blanche to disregard local zoning rules,” Slossberg said in a press release.

“There is still much work to do but I believe these reforms return local control back to the municipal zoning boards and not predatory developers or the courts,” Staneski said.

Slossberg said the law “establishes commonsense, reasonable changes that do not undermine the Affordable Housing Act, but provide a measure of fairness to communities that are subject to the act’s provisions.”

Slossberg and the others have said they are all for the creation of affordable housing, but the statute needs to be changed to create some control.

Milford is among communities that have been beset by applications for “affordable” housing complexes, and under the statute, it is difficult for local planning and zoning boards to deny such applications without facing costly appeals that they usually lose anyway.

The burden of proof that such a development would hurt residents is on the city board.

Milford legislators have said there is a lot of pushback from urban legislators to keep the law as broad as possible and there are concerns about the bill being approved in later steps.

Some provisions in the bill:

• Require that a rotation of judges hear affordable housing application appeals cases.

• Add to the units that count toward the 10 percent threshold and moratorium status certain mobile manufactured homes in resident-owned mobile home parks and other mobile manufactured homes.

• Require each municipality, at least every four years, to prepare on affordable housing plan, with inclusionary zoning.

• Give bonus points for three-bedroom family units and seniors’ units tied to family housing.

• Award assisted housing that is open to only seniors and people with disabilities points.

• Award points for units that receive financial assistance under a government program for the construction or substantial rehabilitation of low- and moderate-income housing.

• Specify that matters a commission legally may consider when reviewing an affordable housing application include “best planning practices” and “design standards.”

• Allow a municipality to deny an application if the proposal is for 25 or fewer units and exceeds the parcel’s permitted density by more than 100 percent if certain conditions are met.

• State that the appeals procedure does not apply to a proposal concerning real property that is subject to a municipal tax lien unless the municipality releases the lien or agrees to subject itself to the 8-30g.