Malloy vetoes changes to affordable housing law
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has vetoed an affordable housing relief bill that had been championed by suburban lawmakers from Greenwich, Fairfield, Milford and Stratford to curtail development.
Malloy, a Democrat, said Friday that House Bill 6880 would undermine the progress made to provide more affordable housing in Connecticut.
“Every resident of Connecticut should have access to housing they can afford in the town where they work,” Malloy said in his veto message to the secretary of the state.
“So, too, should everyone be able to live affordably in the town that they choose, with access to good schools, safe neighborhoods and basic services, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income.”
The legislation would have made it harder for developers to appeal zoning denials by towns of projects, which a 30-year-old law allows.
Many developers have used the law to push through residential building projects that might not normally be approved. It requires them to set aside 10 percent of units as affordable housing.
State Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, who helped to introduce the bill, bemoaned Malloy’s veto.
“It was a small, very modest modification that would allow towns a smidge of a chance to avoid being taken advantage of by predatory developers,” Kupchick said. “It’s disappointing. We’ll just have to wait until the governor’s gone and we’ll try again.”
Cities and towns must set aside 10 percent of housing units for low- to middle-income residents under a 1989 law, which loosens local zoning regulations for developers who help meet the quota.
But less than 20 percent of the state’s 169 municipalities comply with the law, which has resulted in scores of lawsuits being brought by developers against communities for denying housing projects.
By law, a housing unit is affordable if it costs an occupant no more than one-third of his or her annual income, where the income is less than or equal to the area median income for the municipality where the housing is located.
To give communities time to address the affordable housing shortage, the state has granted a number of them a four-year moratorium on zoning appeals. The legislation would have extended the grace period to five years for cities and towns with at least 20,000 dwelling units, providing relief to places such as Greenwich, Fairfield and Milford.
“I am totally supportive of workforce housing and always have been,” said state Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, a sponsor of the bill. “(But) developers are using (the law) to skirt local planning regulations, and I think that’s wrong.”
State Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, chairman of the Legislature’s Black & Puerto Rican Caucus, voted against the bill.
“I believe this is a way for folks to not build affordable housing in their communities,” Rosario said. “It gave me serious concerns, the potential of the bill’s ability to reduce access to safe and affordable housing in the state of Connecticut. I applaud the governor for taking the stance that he took.”
State Rep. John Frey, R-Ridgefield, a real estate agent and bill sponsor, said supporters invested a lot of time and effort building broad support for the measure.
“For him to veto this is shocking,” Frey said. “It seems like he’s not in touch with what’s going on. The votes are clearly there to override it if it comes up.”
Frey said Ridgefield has 18 months until its current four-year moratorium on affordable housing zoning appeals expires, and that it doesn’t have enough overall housing units to qualify for the five-year moratorium.
“All the power is in the developer’s hands and the municipalities are very vulnerable,” Frey said.
State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, who championed the relief measure, echoed Frey.
“The governor’s veto message shows a real lack of understanding of the specific workings of this statute and of the need for reform,” Slossberg said. “Connecticut is the only state that allows private developers to site their developments wherever they choose. States that do not give this disproportionate power to housing developers have been much more successful than Connecticut in developing affordable housing.”
State Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, the former first selectman of Darien, said Friday that the bill failed to incorporate an inclusionary zoning language for all cities and towns favored by her agency. The language would have guaranteed set-asides of affordable housing.
“The changes in HB 6880 do nothing to increase the much-needed stock of affordable housing,” Klein said. “It is essential that legislation supports forward thinking and incorporates policy that promotes inclusion, vibrancy, and economic development. I applaud Governor Malloy for standing up for the voices of our citizens and for vetoing these damaging changes to the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Act.”
State Reps. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, and Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, said in a release Friday that they are highly displeased about the veto. The release noted the bill received 116 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate.
“Towns like Milford are getting overrun with affordable housing applications,” Staneski said in the release. “This legislation was a modest step towards affordable housing reform which hoped to offer towns an attainable goal of developing and reaching a moratorium. I call on all my colleagues in the General Assembly to push for an override of the Governor’s veto. The voices of Milford residents and the state should not be silenced.”
“Under the current 8-30g (statute), towns like Milford had very little chance of ever achieving the high bar for a moratorium that allowed predatory developers to sidestep local zoning laws. It’s clearly been a difficult and complicated issue to work on with the majority in the legislature not in favor of any changes,” the release said.
“Governor Malloy’s veto on the affordable housing legislation that was worked on by Republicans and Democrats signals that he is unwilling to help municipalities who are being negatively targeted by predatory developers,” said Ferraro, also in the release. “I will be working with members from both sides of the aisle to override his veto and put this very important piece of legislation for our cities and towns into law.”
The Connecticut United Way, however, said in a release that the veto “seeks to ensure that there is continued growth in the stock of affordable housing across Connecticut.”
“When households are overburdened by housing costs, they are faced with living in substandard housing, moving farther away from jobs, and even falling into homelessness. High housing costs also makes it difficult for low and moderate income families to afford basic necessities such as food, child care, transportation and health care,” the release said.
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