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Wilton Lawmaker Proposes Affordable Housing Law Changes

State Rep. Gail Lavielle has proposed modifications to an affordable housing bill. Her plan would exempt towns from an appeals procedure if they demonstrate regular progress toward goals.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle has proposed modifications to an affordable housing bill. Her plan would exempt towns from an appeals procedure if they demonstrate regular progress toward goals.

WILTON, Conn. -- Rep. Gail Lavielle proposed modifications to an affordable housing bill during a public hearing held by the General Assembly’s Housing Committee at the New Haven Aldermanic Chamber.

Thirty-two bills dealing with the 8-30g affordable housing statute were discussed at the hearing. Lavielle testified in support of HB 5802, An Act Concerning the Responsible Growth of Affordable Housing. She introduced the bill last month to address the concerns created by the statute for towns like Wilton and Westport.

Under the 8-30g statute, developers constructing affordable housing may use an appeals procedure to circumvent a municipality’s zoning regulations if affordable housing does not represent at least 10 percent of its housing stock

Lavielle’s bill would exempt any municipality from the 8-30g affordable housing land-use appeals procedure if it demonstrated substantial progress over regular intervals toward the 10 percent affordable housing threshold.

Lavielle said Section 8-30g of the general statutes, which  was passed in 1989, recognized Connecticut’s need for affordable housing and attempted to address it through changes to the appeals process for municipal zoning decisions.

“Ideally, it would have led to a balanced approach to affordable housing on the local level – one that would have required municipalities to provide badly needed affordable housing and allowing them to do this while respecting their local planning objectives,'' she said. "Unfortunately, however, that has not been the case."

Lavielle said developers have been able to override local zoning plans in ways that adversely affect the character, appearance, traffic patterns, planning and other aspects of communities. “Many towns are devoting more time and resources to fighting developers’ proposals than to partnering actively and constructively with them to identify and plan locations for affordable housing,'' Lavielle said.

Meanwhile, municipalities are thwarted in preserving their unique physical character and in sustaining their carefully crafted plans for zoning and conservation and development, while the intent of the statute, to increase affordable housing stock throughout the state, is not being fulfilled.

Lavielle noted that 8-30g has become a means of punishing towns for failing to do something that is impossible to accomplish

“No town where affordable housing represents 3 or 4 percent of its total housing stock today can reach the 10 percent threshold overnight,” she said. “It will take several years. Yet in the intervening years, it is still exposed to legal challenges under 8-30g.”

Lavielle said that a much more constructive and dynamic scenario would exempt from 8-30g challenges towns that are demonstrably working consistently over time toward the 10 percent threshold by designating affordable housing zones, actively soliciting developers to purchase properties, potentially taking advantage of Connecticut’s affordable housing incentive program and adhering to a clear schedule for construction.

Lavielle is a Republican who represents the 143rd Assembly District. The district includes parts of Wilton, Norwalk and Westport.

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