Letter: A Call for 8-30g Reform in Connecticut

Fairfield, the city I live in, like many other cities in Connecticut, continues to make significant strides in adding a variety of new housing units to its existing stock of over 21,000 housing units. You may not be aware of our city’s hard work and good performance, and this may be because we usually only hear about the affordable housing ratio as a percentage of the total housing stock and the fact that it does not evolve rapidly towards 10%.

Cities with 10 percent of their total housing stock designated as affordable are exempt from the controversial 8-30g Affordable Housing Act. The 8-30g law is much maligned for a reason – it allows any size of real estate development in any location regardless of the zoning laws that residents have relied on when purchasing their own. House.

Put simply, 8-30g allows real estate developers to largely ignore zoning regulations governing height, land cover, setbacks, traffic jams, impact on property values, and more. if they restrict 30 percent of affordable units per deed. The burden shifts from the applicant justifying the development to the commission justifying a refusal, which can only be done if there is evidence of substantial harm to health or safety.

But it is a virtual mathematical impossibility for most cities to one day achieve 10% of their housing stock at an affordable price. Even so, this ratio is often cited in zoning hearings and in court appeals and judge rulings as evidence that the city is doing little to add affordable housing to its housing stock.

But this ratio is deeply flawed as an indicator of a city’s progress towards adding diversity, including affordability, to its housing stock. The ratio ignores a lot of things and is itself misleading as a measure of a city’s progress. First, the math doesn’t work.

Because 8-30g allows dense new housing development with only 30% being affordable, that means 70% is at full rental value. So even if all new developments are 8-30g, the ratio would increase very slowly because the total number of non-affordable units would increase much more than the affordable ones.

Additionally, many new homes are not based on 8-30g – new non 8-30g homes may only add between 0-10% as affordable. Thus, new real affordable units can be added, but the ratio can further decrease as the total housing stock increases much more.

All this means that the calculations will not achieve the 10% target and that in fact the ratio could drop despite the addition of a large number of affordable and non-affordable but still diverse housing.

Second, the ratio does not take into account the real progress and hard work that cities have done to diversify and expand their housing stock, most of which is not reflected in the percentage of affordable units compared to the total number of units. housing.

Fairfield has continually added to the diversity of its housing stock – in fact working towards the intention behind the 2020 and 2021 legislative proposals presented in Hartford – by expanding multi-family apartments in transit areas, the use of apartments in law (ADU) and mixed-use housing above shops in city centers within walking distance.

But adding to housing diversity does not improve the ratio because in general only 0-10% of housing other than 8-30g is considered affordable. That means the math gets worse for that ratio, even though the city is doing exactly what housing advocates want it to do. Cities will remain subject to 8-30g with no end in sight, and will have a fixed or decreasing ratio used against them in court, even as communities work hard to add to housing diversity.

The ratio thus places Connecticut cities with an unachievable goal and cities should not be accused of failure on that basis. We should not allow all of our city’s hard work and real progress to be judged by this ratio.

But more importantly, our state should reform 8-30g so that it is not used as a club to impose unbridled development based on failure to achieve an unachievable ratio.

It must be recognized that new statewide zoning initiatives and laws (to add to the overall diversity of the housing stock without focusing solely on affordable units) are working against the grain at 8-30g (working towards an elusive ratio of 10 percent affordable to total number of housing units in all municipalities).

Zoning councils are required to follow state mandates, but here the mandates for new zoning laws and proposals (which may still be enacted in future legislative sessions) against the 30-year-old Law 8-30g contain conflicting goals and cities are trapped. the middle.

It is time for our state’s legislature to reform laws that conflict with other laws while penalizing cities that attempt to achieve the goals of both.

Harrison is a candidate for the Town of Fairfield Planning and Zoning Commission.

Alexis harrison

Fairfield

Harrison is a candidate for the Town of Fairfield Planning and Zoning Commission.

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Ray Coulombe

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