HARTFORD, CT — Legislation to change land use laws in Connecticut is already drafted, but the General Assembly won’t tackle it during the July special session.
Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said he’s had no “assurances” that the legislation he helped draft will be part of the special session.
“There’s very significant interest,” Anwar said.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds said Anwar has not shared the legislation yet with the administration.
In the past, every time a piece of legislation is proposed to address restrictive zoning and affordable housing – “those bills die and that is a reality,” Anwar said Tuesday at a press conference outside the state Capitol.
He said housing is the “center” of all issues.
“If you are looking at a comprehensive social justice solution,” Anwar said. “Doing just police reform is going to be symptomatic treatment. We need a therapeutic strategy.”
The General Assembly is expected to return for a special session later this month to approve legislation that addresses police accountability, absentee ballots, tele-health reimbursement, and caps on insulin costs. Housing and land-use policy might be on the horizon, but legislative leadership hasn’t said whether it would get raised.
Lamont said Tuesday that housing would not be part of the July special session. He said it’s possible it may come up in a September special session.
“The General Assembly is working with Governor Lamont to determine the agendas for the anticipated July and September special sessions. Housing equity is a significant part of these ongoing conversations,” Kevin Coughlin, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, said.
Anwar explained why housing policy is so important.
“The state of Connecticut is one of the most segregated states in this region,” Anwar said. “Where 50% of all African-Americans, and 50% of all Hispanics … live on 2% of the land in this state. You don’t sustain a society that way. Two-thirds of all African-Americans and two-thirds of all the Hispanic community members actually are in low-opportunity areas.”
Anwar’s legislation and other proposals that are being backed by a coalition calling itself Desegregate CT would address the land-use issues that create exclusionary zoning policies and make it impossible to desegregate communities.
“Restrictive zoning, costly review processes, and arbitrary impediments thwart affordable and multifamily housing development,” Desegregate CT says on its website. “As a result, Connecticut’s high-opportunity neighborhoods remain inaccessible to those who can’t afford high-priced single-family homes, creating segregation along economic and racial lines.”
Sara Bronin, the Desegregate CT organizer and chair of Real Property Law at UConn Law, said Connecticut must “tackle discrimination and segregation at one of its most insidious sources and that is our land-use system, specifically zoning.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said they will have to persuade people who may not think like they do about housing and land use.
He said it’s been three years since the House overrode a veto from a Democratic governor amending a state statute to make it more difficult to do affordable housing projects.
“This work is real,” Ritter said.