Affordable housing: Weston Rep. Shaban proposes law changes

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Rep. John Shaban

State Rep. John Shaban (R-135) has again introduced legislation to restore local control over the placement of affordable housing in local communities.

Under the state’s current “Affordable Housing” laws, developers can build cluster housing and/or an apartment complex — regardless of local zoning laws — by reserving 30% of the development as “affordable” units under the statute.

This “zoning busting” scheme applies to all towns regardless of its size or proximity to mass transit and job centers, according to Mr. Shaban’s release. “Even worse, if the town denies a developer’s application, the sole basis upon which that denial can be sustained on appeal is if the town shows that the proposed development would have a significant harmful impact on the local environment — a near impossible task in practice,” the release said.

While towns can avoid this burden shifting once it reaches 10% affordable housing stock, only 18% of Connecticut’s municipalities have been able to meet that mark since the law’s inception two decades ago.

“The problem is not with the towns,” Mr. Shaban said. “It’s with the statute and its ‘one size fits all’ approach. Providing affordable housing is the last thing on the minds of the developers who use the law to break zoning [regulations] and overbuild a site.”

Mr. Shaban also noted that, under current law, units designated as “affordable” eventually revert back to market-priced units, and thus erase any gains in affordable housing.

His proposals recently received a public hearing before the Housing Committee. The bills are:

  • HB-5314, An Act Exempting Certain Municipalities From The Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure. This bill would exempt small municipalities (fewer than 15,000 residents) from the Affordable Housing requirements.
  • HB-5315, An Act Concerning Affordable Housing. This bill would put the burden back with the developers to demonstrate that the proposed affordable housing development will not result in harm to the local environment, and the development will be near mass transit and commercial areas.

Mr. Shaban also expressed his support for similar reforms proposed by regional planning agencies that would allow local plans of development to control the placement of affordable housing projects, and make the law more balanced, permanent and effective.

“Affordable housing projects should be developed in concert with local land use plans, not in spite of them,” Mr. Shaban said. “The current proposals would improve our affordable housing scheme, make our towns partners in the process instead of adversaries, and increase the chances that the laudable intent of the act will actually come to fruition.”

Mr. Shaban represents Weston, Easton, and Redding.

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