Connecticut bill proposes statewide needs assessment of affordable housingMarch 29, 2022
A new Connecticut bill introduced this legislative session tackles a familiar subject – affordable housing – with a renewed call to examine how people of all income levels can feasibly live within the state.
As drafted, House Bill 5204 would require a statewide assessment of affordable housing needs by planning regions and municipalities.
Once completed, the assessment would outline specific affordable housing plans for each municipality and suggests performance in meeting metrics could be part of further study and analysis down the road.
The most recent action taken on HB 5204 was on March 17, on the House floor, when it was introduced and filed with the state Legislative Commissioners’ Office.
Several days prior, the General Assembly’s Housing Committee – comprised of members in the House and Senate – delved into the legislation and deliberated on some of the granular details. The panel ultimately cast a favorable 10-5 vote that was nearly cut down partisan lines.
State Rep. Frank Smith, D-Milford, said he was concerned with HB 5204 because he viewed it unfair and lacking a locally driven approach. Smith was the only Democrat on the committee to vote against the bill.
“I do recognize and appreciate the dire need for affordable housing in this state,” Smith said. Speaking to the bill, he later stated, “It really does add another layer of bureaucracy without any great effect.”
But other Democratic legislators on the committee offered a more hearty endorsement, while dually underscoring their belief affordable housing is an urgent issue within Connecticut.
“I’m past the point of convincing people we need to do something about affordable housing in this state,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said. “It’s just a very frustrating subject that’s had a lot of words thrown at it, but they don’t mean all that much.”
State Rep. Quentin Williams, D-Middletown, also supported the needs assessment. Williams, who serves as House chair of the Housing Committee, said he was concerned Connecticut is lagging behind Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island in making accommodations for affordable housing.
“If you don’t have a plan, then you have a plan to fail,” Williams said. “Right now, this is about a lack of planning.”
Republican lawmakers on the committee offered different takes on the bill. Several suggested a deeper review was necessary.
State Sen. Paul Cicarella, R-North Haven, said he had concerns with language in the bill directing state employees to enforce affordable housing metrics without specific data first nailed down.
“This is a great example that if we push something through too quick, there can be a number of unintended consequences,” Cicarella said.
State Rep. Joe Zullo, R-East Haven, shared similar concerns. He said he viewed HB 5204 in its current state as legislation that could have long-term impacts.
“This is a critical piece of policy,” Zullo said. “This is going to shape housing policy for generations to come.”
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