Fazio, Greenwich lawmakers seek changes in affordable housing laws, saying 8-30g ‘has failed every town’

February 9, 2022

Greenwich lawmakers seek changes in affordable housing laws, saying 8-30g ‘has failed every town’


Greenwich Time


GREENWICH — State lawmakers who represent Greenwich say they are working together to spearhead new legislative initiatives to modify the state’s affordable housing laws and maintain local control of zoning.

Speaking at Armstrong Court, a public housing complex in town, state Sen. Ryan Fazio said a surge in new building proposals using the state’s affordable housing law, known as 8-30g, need to be addressed with new laws in Hartford.

We’re deeply concerned about efforts at the state level to undermine local control of town planning and zoning, and the 8-30g law,” Fazio, R-36th District, said at the news conference Tuesday.

We think this is the right time for us to band together, across party lines, at all levels of government, in order to have sensible affordable housing,” he said. “We also want to stop a lot of bad legislation coming down the pike.”

The state mandate requires Greenwich and all other communities to have 10 percent of its housing deemed “affordable.” In Greenwich, 5.3 percent of the housing is listed as affordable by the state. The state imposes penalties and mandates for communities that miss the target over a period of time.

But the current housing market, which has seen a surge of demand, has set the stage for a construction boom in Greenwich and other towns in the region, and the time had come to act on revising 8-30g, the lawmakers said.

First Selectman Fred Camillo said, “8-30g has failed us, and it has failed every town.”

In recent weeks, Greenwich has seen a steep rise in 8-30g housing proposals. The law creates incentives for developers if they designate 30 percent of a housing proposal as affordable, giving local planning authorities much less discretion in seeking changes or reductions in scale on the projects.

State Rep. Stephen Meskers, the sole Democratic state lawmaker at the press conference, said the current law creates “an incentive to builders,” which then encourages overdevelopment.

“It’s an incentive to build higher density housing, which may not be what we want,” said Meskers, D-150th District. “It’s a problem of overdevelopment versus correct development.”

A “one-size fits all approach” is a poor one for housing policy, Camillo said. He noted that Greenwich had received more 8-30g applications in the past year than in the preceding 29 years, when the state affordable-housing law was passed.

He said there are also concerns about environmental issues, including flooding, from the planned construction, if the projects proceed under current state guidelines.

The Greenwich lawmakers said proposed legislation would be introduced this week in Hartford. Chief among the goals would be to create a wider definition for “affordable” units.

Fazio noted that local country clubs, private schools and Greenwich Hospital all provide housing units at below-market rates, but none of those units are counted by the state as “affordable.”

In addition, numerous “accessory structures” offer housing opportunities to residents at less-than-market rates, such as guest houses or small apartments carved out of larger homes, he said. But they are also ineligible to be classified as “affordable” under the state laws.

The current definition used by the state to tally “affordable” units is too narrow and needs to be expanded, Fazio said.

State Rep. Kimberly Fiorello, R-149th District, said the law was due for modifications.

“8-30g is a bill that’s 30 years old, and it hasn’t worked. It’s perfectly reasonable for the people of Connecticut and Greenwich to tweak bills, so they make sense and are workable,” she said.

Sam Romeo, chairman of Greenwich Communities, the town’s public housing authority, said a large portion of the 8-30g building proposals would create one-bedroom units, “which do not help working families.”

The affordable units created by developers are not categorized as “affordable” in perpetuity, he said, and the designation could lapse in three or four decades. Romeo noted that Greenwich Communities had a five-year plan to create about 300 units of affordable units, and it regularly buys homes on the market and puts them under the ownership of the housing authority.

Fazio said other legislative measure would be introduced to promote affordable housing that is “consistent with the style and architecture of the town.” He said the aim was to “incentivize the right kind of building rather than the wrong type of building.”

The Greenwich lawmakers said they had support and coordination with lawmakers from around the state, and said there was interest from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for reviewing the affordable housing law.

Greenwich needs to create 1,140 more affordable units to reach the 10 percent state requirement. The town administration recently enacted a housing trust fund to build more affordable housing units or to renovate units that could be rented below market rates. The trust fund will seek grants and private donors to carry out the work.

In Hartford, an advocacy group called Desegregate Connecticut has been proposing a number of affordable-housing initiatives. It is seeking to reduce large, minimum-lot size zoning that municipalities have enacted, and it is looking to promote denser housing near train stations, among other concepts.

The legislative initiatives are expected to be directed to the Planning and Development Committee.