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Connecticut legislature at odds over affordable housing

Keith Srakocic
/
AP
Affordable housing

Connecticut Democrats and Republicans can agree that the state is in a housing crisis, but are struggling to work together to fix it.

Democrats have two bills proposed: Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 6781.

Republicans have proposed one bill, House Bill 5326.

The Democrats proposed House Bill penalizes landlords for property neglect, caps tenant screening fees, increases money for affordable housing and increases tax on large property investors. It would also force municipalities to develop fair housing plans by the end of this year.

Housing Committee co-chair Senator Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport) helped draft the legislation. According to the Connecticut Department of Housing, 20% of housing in her city was affordable in 2020.

Republicans showed more support for the Democrats House Bill than their Senate Bill.

The Democrats proposed Senate Bill would ban most winter evictions, limit late rent charges, support workforce housing, fund environmentally friendly housing upgrades and create a pilot program to house people facing homelessness.

Dahlia Romanow is an attorney with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. She said the Democrats’ proposals are necessary to make housing in the state more equitable for Black and Latin renters, who are three and two times more likely to be evicted in Connecticut, respectively.

“I think we can all just look outside and see why tenants should not be forcibly removed from their homes, potentially pushed into homelessness in the winter,” Romanow said. “Limits on applications and late fees, these fees are only contributing to the instability and economic distress of tenants who are already struggling to afford their rent.”

Some legislators and advocates disagreed, questioning who would be responsible for the unpaid rent if renters were not held accountable.

Morgan Miller is a housing provider and member of the Connecticut Apartment Association. She said while evictions are a last resort, they are necessary to remain in business as a housing provider.

“Who will be responsible for the unpaid rent?” Miller asked. “Will foreclosures and bankruptcies also be stopped during this time? The proposed bill will indeed create a financial burden for housing providers and their ability to remain current with their mortgages.”

The Republicans proposed House Bill would expand the definition of affordable housing. Current law 8-30g allows developers to bring municipalities with less than 10% affordable housing to court for rejecting affordable housing proposals.

Republican Senator Ryan Fazio, who represents Greenwich, said the current 8-30g law is unfair to towns like his.

“In my district, for example, there is an 8-30g application to build a 100-unit development in a single family home neighborhood,” Fazio said. “An older neighbor has lived in her home for many decades and will now have a 75-foot high wall abutting her property.”

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has proposed spending $600 million over the next two years to build more than 6,000 affordable housing units.

An estimated 86,000 are needed to bridge the gap in the state.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.