UPDATE: Affordable housing bill heads to governor's office

UPDATE June 19:An affordable housing law that local legislators say will give Milford more control over where affordable housing is built is on its way to the governor's office, according to state Rep. Kim Rose.

An earlier posting announced the bill had already been signed by the governor, but that was inaccurate.

June 7 article: Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford), Co-Chair of the Housing Committee, announced Wednesday that after months of negotiating and working on the bill, legislation reforming Connecticut’s affordable housing system has been approved by both chambers of the General Assembly. 

Vice-Chair of the Housing Committee Representative Kim Rose (D-Milford) hailed Senate passage of House Bill #6880, which she said revises language in the affordable housing statute to protect towns and cities from predatory development while encouraging the creation of affordable housing.

Earlier article: Members of Milford’s delegation in Hartford have what they say is legislation that will give Milford residents more control over when and where affordable housing developments are built.

After months of negotiating and working on a bill, legislators have one that will reform Connecticut’s affordable housing system and that is poised to move forward, according to two leaders on the Housing Committee — Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford), Senate co-chair of the Housing Committee, and Kim Rose, House vice chair of the Housing Committee.

House Bill 6880 passed in the House of Representatives Tuesday night by a vote of 116 to 33.

“I couldn’t be more pleased that it passed the House and now it will head to the Senate for their vote,” Rose said. “We crafted a bill that would help Milford to reach a moratorium while continuing to encourage the development of affordable housing in the state. Once we achieve a moratorium, it is up to our city planner, land use official and our Planning and Zoning Board to come up with a plan for any future developments.”

Slossberg said Milford residents have been calling for common sense reforms to the Affordable Housing Act, “and this bill accomplishes that.”

“This bill enables the Affordable Housing Act to continue encouraging the creation of affordable housing options, but updates the law to reflect communities’ actual experience with the statute,” Slossberg said. “I, along with the entire Milford delegation, worked very hard to secure this vote in the House of Representatives, and am looking forward to getting the bill passed in the Senate.”

The bill that passed in the House Tuesday night makes several reforms that will put decision making back in the hands of residents and elected officials. First, the bill makes Ryder Woods, a mobile home community, count toward Milford’s application for an affordable housing moratorium.

“Including this affordable, livable community recognizes the reality of housing opportunities in Milford and will bring the city very close to securing a moratorium,” Slossberg said.

She described the bill as the biggest move on the law in 30 years.

In February the Housing Committee in the General Assembly heard testimony on both sides of the 8-30g affordable housing law as a number of bills were presented to amend the state regulation that allows developers to circumvent local zoning regulations to build housing that meets the affordable housing definition.

Milford residents and representatives have long been fighting the 8-30g law that they say gives developers unfair leverage in building what they want where they want. The concern is that these projects are placing dense, multi-family projects into single-family neighborhoods, or taking land set aside for office buildings and making them residential properties.

Under the 8-30g law, a local zoning board can reject such a plan only if the project represents a threat to public health and safety that outweighs the need for affordable housing. Any 8-30g project that the Milford Planning and Zoning Board has rejected has been approved on appeal to the Land Use Litigation Docket, a branch of the state Superior Court.

Not everyone spoke against the affordable housing statute in February. Others have defended the current law: Richard K. Freedman, for example, president of Garden Homes Management, which owns apartments on Golden Hill Street and Cascade Boulevard and plans to build housing on Bic Drive, was among those defending the current affordable housing law at a February public hearing.

“Since 2005 we have proposed seven projects under 8-30g,” he wrote to the state. “Three are built, one is nearing construction and three are in litigation.”

“The impact of 8-30g is clear,” he wrote. “In 1992, only 3.9% of housing units in non-exempt towns was affordable. Since 1992, 10% of units added in non-exempt towns have been affordable, raising the overall affordable percentage in non-exempt towns to 4.8%. The law has worked precisely as intended.”

Rose emphasized this week that Bill 6680 does not  jeopardize the building of affordable housing throughout the state. “Whenever we pass a law we must bear in mind that it affects the entire state,” Rose said.

“I thank my Housing Chairman Larry Butler for his tireless work and advocacy on this issue, and also to the housing advocates, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who worked with us to bring this bill forward,” Rose said.

“The bill moves towns like Milford closer to an achievable affordable housing moratorium,” said state Rep. Pam Staneski. “This bill as amended doesn’t disarm us of our responsibility to continue to build housing that is affordable. It does provide communities, such as Milford, acknowledgment of the efforts we have put forth, and gives us time to address the manner in which aggressive builders have used this well-intended statute in a divisive fashion to circumvent those efforts—our community’s concerns were heard today. I look forward to this getting done in the Senate, and signed by the governor.”

“Our communities have suffered too long under the current affordable housing regulations, and I am glad to see we were able to pass bipartisan legislation in the House to change these outdated regulations,” said sate Rep. Charles Ferraro. “The Milford delegation has worked hand-in-hand with all the stakeholders to make sure this legislation creates an even playing field for all. We will be working closely with our colleague Senator Slossberg to get this legislation passed in the Senate.”

The bill:

  • Allows Ryder Mobile Home park to be included in Milford’s count toward affordable housing stock

  • Contains a five year sunset provision

  • Lowers minimum number of HUE points smaller municipalities must obtain to qualify for a moratorium from 75 HUE points to 50 HUE points

  • Encourages the development of three bedroom family units, senior units tied to family housing, and family units located in incentive housing zones

  • Makes income-restricted units in an IHZ development eligible for points toward a moratorium.

  • Awards bonus HUE points for family units that contain at least three bedrooms, elderly units when 60% of an affordable housing completion certificate is tied to family housing, and family units located within an Incentive Housing Zone;

  • Changes the definition of median income applicable to IHZ’s to conform to 8-30g’s definition (the lesser of state median income and the area median income as determined by HUD).

  • Makes affordable housing moratoriums more achievable for midsize cities. The current threshold to qualify for a moratorium is 2%, this bill lowers that threshold to 1.5%.