Affordable housing is one of the most important issues facing our towns. Having a diversity of housing stock makes our community stronger, allows seniors to downsize and continue to live here, allows those just starting out in the labor market to move in, and it allows some of our most dedicated residents like teachers and police officers serving our towns to live locally. Finding ways to embrace and advance thoughtful planning and development initiatives that satisfy the demand for affordable housing options, while addressing the concerns of existing residents remains a daunting challenge for zoning boards across the state.

As State Representative I convened a community roundtable to discuss these issues and I invited our state’s Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno to participate. As we explored some of the perceived barriers to the development of affordable housing, the issue of State Statute 8-30g was raised. The statute allows developers to bypass local zoning laws by designating a percentage of their planned housing as affordable. While the statute was designed to encourage affordable housing development, granting what amounts to immunity from zoning laws and regulations established by local municipalities is an unfair shortcut that has been exploited by some developers.

In response to these concerns, I proposed a bill during the 2021 and 2022 legislative session in partnership with Bethel Town Planner Beth Cavagna that would allow towns to earn a temporary reprieve from the statute if they develop an affordable housing plan. In 2019, I supported HB 6749, a bipartisan bill to address the pressing issues of housing affordability, diversity, and accessibility. It would also eliminate vague zoning terminology that could be misused to exclude diverse residents.

Finally, discussions from the roundtable prompted the Housing Commissioner to appoint Beth Cavagna to a State Task Force on affordable housing. This high-level appointment ensures that Bethel’s concerns about housing legislation are being heard at the state level.

The need for affordable housing is critical here in Connecticut and creating workable solutions will require collaboration and partnership with local governments and all local stakeholders. Zoning decisions should be local decisions, and that’s why I have put forward legislation to improve 8-30g and protect towns that are working to do the right thing to increase availability of affordable housing. We have already made progress and I will continue to be a champion on this important issue.