(Updated 4:30 p.m.) HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Friday that he said would make it easier for municipalities to “deny proposed affordable housing projects and shield themselves from an appeals process designed to overcome local resistance to fair and affordable housing.”
The bill received the support of several Fairfield County lawmakers and municipal organizations, who said the goal of affordable housing is laudable, but not attainable under the current 1990 law.
The current law says that if less than 10 percent of a town’s housing stock is guaranteed by a deed restriction then a developer can override local zoning to build mixed-income housing and at least 30 percent of the new units must be affordable for people making less than 80 percent of the median income.
The law has forced some municipal Planning and Zoning Commissions to deny permits for certain developments, like one proposed in Milford that would have catered to an upscale clientele.
According to the Milford Mirror, Robert Smith Jr., managing director of Metro Star Properties, told the local zoning commission, that “we’re don’t care to serve that clientele.”
The 168-unit apartment complex was rejected by the commission.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, was disappointed with the veto. She said the bill that passed in the General Assembly made several critical reforms that would restore the ability of communities like Milford to make sound planning decisions.
“People in Milford and across Connecticut have been calling for common-sense reforms to our affordable housing statutes, and I am deeply disappointed that Governor Malloy has chosen to ignore them,” Slossberg said. “The Governor’s veto message shows a real lack of understanding of the specific workings of this statute and of the need for reform. Connecticut is the only state that allows private developers to site their developments wherever they choose. States that do not give this disproportionate power to housing developers have been much more successful than Connecticut in developing affordable housing.”
Malloy disagreed about the impact the changes would have had on Connecticut’s housing stock.
“Every resident of Connecticut should have access to housing they can afford in the town where they work,” Malloy wrote in his veto message. “So, too, should everyone be able to live affordably in the town that they choose, with access to good schools, safe neighborhoods, and basic services, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income.”
Malloy pointed out in his veto message that Connecticut has the sixth highest gap in the nation between what renters earn and what it costs to rent a small family apartment. He said about one third of Connecticut residents rent their homes. The mean wage of a renter in Connecticut is $16.97 per hour, which means they can only afford $883 per month without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. But the fair market rent in Connecticut is around $1,285 per month. That’s a gap of about $402 per month.
The affordability gap is even higher in other parts of the state like the Milford-Ansonia-Seymour metropolitan area, which is one of the five most expensive areas in Connecticut to live. In order to live in that part of the state one parent would need to $24.90 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
“However, for many lower-income residents who must work in areas of the state where the cost of housing is high, a long history of decisions and discriminatory policies has made securing that housing persistently difficult,” Malloy said. “Those decisions include the historical practice of redlining – denying mortgages to entire neighborhoods because of the residents’ race or ethnicity – and passing restrictive zoning rules that make it nearly impossible to build multifamily housing, or that require home lots to be so large that only the wealthy can buy them.”
Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein said the changes in the bill did “nothing to increase the much-needed stock of affordable housing.”
Since 2011, Malloy’s administration has supported the development of nearly 21,000 units of housing, with approximately 18,500 of those units affordable to persons of low and moderate income.
Alicia Woodsby, executive director of the Partnership for Stronger Communities, said since it was first enacted by the General Assembly, the current affordable housing law has created more than 5,000 affordable homes in towns with high-resource schools and services and more than twice as many modest market-rate condos, townhouses and apartments.
“The law has given developers the right to build affordable homes in communities that otherwise wouldn’t have allowed those developments, while protecting towns that could legitimately prove the developments would threaten public health or safety,” Woodsby said. “Equally important, the statute has spurred many towns, from New Canaan and Wilton to Simsbury and Stonington, to voluntarily create thousands more affordable homes in mixed-income developments.”
The bill received strong support in the Senate where it passed 30-6 and in the House where it passed 116 to 33.
That’s enough support to be considered for a gubernatorial override.
Adam Joseph, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, said it wouldn’t make a determination until Malloy signs all the legislation on his desk.
Malloy vetoed two other bills Friday.
One would have created a tax credit for taxpayers who donate their homegrown agricultural goods to food banks, and another would have changes consumer protections on warranties for roofing, window and siding materials.
Malloy said while the tax credit is “certainly laudable” it would be a revenue loss for the state and create an entirely new category of credits to be applied against personal income tax liability.
As for the warranty legislation, Malloy said his office heard from manufacturers across Connecticut who expressed significant concerns about the legislation, which would give manufacturers 30 days to make a determination about warranty claim.
The veto messages are attached at the end of the bill notification.