HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 8:20 p.m.) The House voted 101-47 and the Senate voted 24-12 to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of legislation that changes, or according to the governor, “rolls back,“ affordable housing laws.
Before the Monday’s vote, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he didn’t know if they had the votes for re-passage.
Both the House and the Senate vote ended up being as close as possible. The measure passed the House the first time on May 30 by a vote of 116 to 33 and the Senate 30 to 6 on June 7.
The House got the exact number of votes — 101 — it needed, and the Senate got the mandatory 24 votes it needed Monday to override the veto.
In the House, 16 Democratic lawmakers changed their votes to oppose the legislation they had initially supported. Another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Mike Demicco, D-Farmington, changed his opposition to support for the legislation.
All the Republicans in the House maintained their votes in favor of the legislation.
In the Senate, seven members changed their votes to oppose the override. Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, changed his vote to support the override.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, who is in favor of overriding the veto, said it’s about local control.
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 that don’t contain affordable housing provisions because that town hasn’t reached that 10 percent threshold.
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. That gap between a typical two-bedroom apartment rent and what a median wage earner can afford is about $402 per month.
“This legislation takes affordable housing policy in the wrong direction. Its passage would perpetuate the harmful effects of bad economic policy and institutional segregation, damaging our state’s economy and its moral foundation,” Malloy said.
However, enough lawmakers disagreed.
Rep. Larry Butler, D-Waterbury, described it as a “family disagreement.”
“On this one issue we just don’t see eye-to-eye,” Butler said.
He said the legislation will improve the affordable housing statute and takes into consideration the best place to site affordable housing. He said there are towns where affordable housing isn’t built because the current law makes it almost impossible.
“This bill is a collection of a compromise from many people in this chamber that gave up consideration from their side … to actually build more affordable housing,” Butler said. “It is just a tweak of the statute.”
But others felt it went beyond a “tweak.”
Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, said “just because the legislature passed something that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing.”
He said this is a moment for us to make a statement about affordable housing.
He pointed out there are 138 towns and cities with less than 10 percent of the housing in their communities rated affordable — that’s 80 percent of Connecticut. An estimated 97 communities have less than 5 percent affordable housing in their community.
“We’re not talking about low-income housing, we’re talking about affordable housing,” Soto said.
Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said there’s a concern this will dilute the intent of the underlying affordable housing law.
“Why are we giving incentives to people for doing what’s right?” Porter said.
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said the bill is not a statement about the appeals process for towns to get out of building affordable housing, “it’s a solution to a problem.” He said, “this is to make sure towns like mine build affordable housing.”
He said it’s to make sure town’s stay on the right path and continue to build affordable units.
“This is our last best chance,” Steinberg said.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said there are 138 communities that don’t get to make local decisions about their housing because of the current process.
“It means predatory developers are able to build anything they want, anywhere they want,” Slossberg said.
She said it does not undermine the existing affordable housing law. It simply changes the appeals process.
Chris Collibee, a spokesman for Malloy, expressed his disappointment in the votes.
“The best interest of our residents and communities were not served by this action,” Collibee said. “The final votes by the House and Senate move the state in wrong direction. Make no mistake, Governor Malloy is undeterred by today’s developments and remains resolute in increasing access to affordable housing in all of communities, because every person — regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status — deserves the opportunity to live in the communities in which they work.”
It was the fourth time the General Assembly has overridden a Malloy veto over the past seven years.