Senator Boucher Advocates Reform Of State Affordable Housing Law

February 17, 2009

Testifies In Favor Of Her Proposed Legislation Before Housing Committee

Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) today asked the General Assembly’s Housing Committee to support her legislative proposals to give municipalities more control over their efforts to provide affordable housing, and to credit towns and cities for the affordable housing they already provide.

“The state’s affordable housing law is responsible for historic changes in how the courts review municipal zoning decisions concerning affordable housing. Since its enactment, many affordable dwellings have been created. However, some bad practices and unintended consequences have also occurred. Developers can use the law to essentially override municipal planning and zoning laws if less than 10 percent of a town’s housing stock is deemed affordable. Developers can appeal a denial by the local authorities to the courts and, unfortunately, many use the law as a way to build costly dense housing wherever they want, without regard to the local development plan. Numerous environmental groups and municipal planning and zoning commissions in my district contacted me to support my affordable housing proposals. Clearly, we need to make some changes,” said Senator Boucher.

Under SB 206, An Act Concerning Moratoriums On Affordable Housing Applications, the existing affordable housing law would be amended to award one-housing equivalent point to elderly housing units, and to use local median income in designating local housing as affordable under state law.

Under SB 208, An Act Concerning The Determination Of The Number Of Affordable Housing Units In A Municipality, municipalities could include existing affordable apartments and accessory apartments to meet the state threshold for affordable housing units.

“Crediting municipalities for the affordable dwellings they already have would give them more control future building, allowing local officials to make sure that construction conforms to the plan of development. Many communities have made great progress in meeting the high demand for affordable elderly housing, and their efforts have made it possible for low-income seniors to stay in the towns where they raised their families and contributed their time and money. These towns’ efforts ought to be taken into account when calculating their contribution to the state’s affordable housing stock,” said Senator Boucher.

In addition, Senator Boucher is a co-sponsor of HB 5597, An Act Concerning An Application For Affordable Housing Developments, which she said calls for “financial compensation to be given to towns for traffic mitigation plans needed as a result of the dense development adding to traffic congestion.“ She said that the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, along with other towns in the 26th Senatorial District, submitted testimony in support of the three bills.

Senator Boucher said that testimony submitted by the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission is representative of the experience of many area communities. That testimony stated: “In Westport, any attempt through planning to require affordable and market rate units in the same project to be comparable in size and/or quality of construction is virtually impossible. To be able to rent or sell the affordable units based on income as a percentage of the area median income would help allow comparable units to be built, a goal of this Commission.”

Senator Boucher agreed, saying that she testified before the Housing Committee to support both her own legislative proposals and the need for reform as expressed by local officials in her district.

“The rules under which affordable housing is developed have to be fair to everyone involved, residents who need the housing, developers who provide it, and the communities in which it is located. The General Assembly has an opportunity this year to pass legislation that would responsible address these issues. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues in a bipartisan manner to pass such legislation,” said Senator Boucher.