With two Milford politicians at the helm of the the state Housing Committee, which has input on all matters relating to housing and housing programs, there may be some moves this session that change the 8-30g affordable housing legislation. At least, that’s what the two Milford legislators are hoping.

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D-14) said she will have more opportunity to bring change to the affordable housing law, 8-30g, this session because she has been named a Senate co-chairman of the committee. Meanwhile, state Rep. Kim Rose has been re-named a committee House vice chairman.

Slossberg, re-elected to her seventh term as state senator of the 14th District in November, said she asked for the assignment because she hopes to bring change to that legislation, which many Milford residents believe has led to a disproportionate number of multi-unit housing developments in single-family residential areas.

“I felt it was necessary,” Slossberg said, adding that over the years state lawmakers who have opposed the legislation have been unable to pass reform and prevent the “predatory development” she said the housing law has led to.

Since she is a co-chairman, Slossberg said, she will have more opportunity to bring all the stakeholders together and talk about “preserving the positive parts of the legislation while eliminating the abuse.”

Returning as a vice chairman, Rose (D-118), who was re-elected to her fourth term in November, said she looks forward to working with Slossberg and others to draft legislation that will give Milford relief, “a bill that will continue to encourage building much-needed affordable housing throughout the state while protecting the character of Milford’s neighborhoods.”

Rose cautioned that legislators hoping to change the law are facing “extreme opposition to any changes to the statute, particularly from Reps. Roland Lemar and Pat Dillon of New Haven.”

Rose cited an article in the New Haven Independent, which states that Lemar is against efforts to repeal or amend Section 8-30g of the general statutes. The article says, “He spoke of how some of his constituents spend hours a day on buses to low-paying service jobs in Milford or North Haven because those towns keep out affordable housing.”

Rose and Slossberg were two of the panelists at a forum in Milford in November that focused on the 8-30g law and its impact on Milford.

The state’s affordable housing law has been a talking point and a battling point for many years in a number of suburban towns, including Milford, because it allows developers to ignore local zoning regulations and build what they want as long as a certain percentage of the units are marketed as affordable and meet the state’s definition of affordable housing. Among other criteria, the housing must be for people who make 80% or 60% of the median income and be deed-restricted to qualify as affordable under the law.

Milford has seen a number of applications in recent years for affordable housing developments. Local officials here say Milford has gotten more applications than other communities, largely because of its attributes, like the beach, the highways, the train station, a good sewer system, and other amenities people look for, making it a good location for large-scale housing.

While the panelists in November agreed the law has good intentions, Mayor Ben Blake and the others said it has backfired in places like Milford and Fairfield. “Places like Milford are disproportionately affected by this legislation,” Blake said.

The 8-30g legislation was born in the 1980s in response to the housing boom and efforts by some suburban communities to create exclusionary zoning regulations, Slossberg said, adding that Milford wasn’t one of those communities.
Counting toward the total
Slossberg listed the housing in Milford that is in all practical terms affordable: Ryder Woods, which is a mobile home park that the city took the lead in creating, in-law apartments, and apartments throughout the city that rent at below-market rates.

But those units don’t count toward totals that the city needs to be exempt from the law or to qualify for a moratorium.

Slossberg said she tried to pass legislation that would allow those units to be counted, but in the battle between urban communities and suburban communities regarding the legislation, the urban votes outnumber those from communities like Milford, and attempts to change the law have failed, Slossberg said.

People here have opposed a number of affordable housing proposals, saying they are not right for the areas where they have been proposed. Some have been multi-unit complexes in largely single-family residential areas.

Milford’s Planning and Zoning Board has voted down some recent applications under the affordable housing law. But after their denial, if the developer appeals, the case goes before a land use judge and the city has the burden of proving that the development will hurt Milford. In all cases so far, the judge has overturned Milford’s denial.