With just 3,600 homes for sale in Connecticut finding affordable housing has been challenging for many, but Gov. Ned Lamont wants to use about $600 million to build 6,400 units of housing over the next two years.
“Time is money and the housing trust fund will allow developers to move quickly, with an emphasis on multi-unit housing in downtown areas close to transportation,” Lamont said Wednesday during his budget address.
But how does the state make that a reality?
“I really do appreciate and we’re thrilled the governor has focused much of his state budget address on housing and housing needs as an economic necessity,” Jim Perras, CEO at the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, Inc. said.
Connecticut was able to build about 5,000 new units last year, but Lamont’s Budget Director Jeffrey Beckham said the 6,400 units would be in addition to that number.
“It’s ambitious but doable,” Perras said. However, “a couple of things need to happen.”
He said the governor urged municipalities to reform their zoning regulations and speed up the approval process, “which sounds nice, but we know municipalities heretofore have historically been reluctant to do that on their own without an incentive or repercussions.”
“I will also urge mayors and first selectmen to develop and act on a plan of their own where they will allow more housing in their community through friendlier zoning and expedited approvals,” Lamont said during his budget address. “Towns may submit their plans to facilitate housing on their terms. Doing nothing is not an acceptable strategy.”
Perras said the home builders still have an issue finding plumbers and HVAC folks. He said there needs to be incentives to small businesses to hire new apprentices and speed up the transition to journeyman.
If that happens then 6,400 additional units might be doable.
House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said the capital obviously helps the state move the needle on more housing inventory.
“What I think we need to supplement that is policy that allows us to do housing development more quickly,” Rojas said.
He said Lamont wants to avoid a housing crisis, but Rojas believes the housing crisis is already here and it’s a national crisis not just one in Connecticut.
Last month, Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, told lawmakers that only 42% of housing nationwide is considered affordable.
Rojas said he thinks the money is great, but there’s a lot more policy that needs to be done too.
He said maybe the state resources will make developers less skittish and more able to make the investments they need to get people into housing.
In addition to subsidizing the development of 6,400 new housing units, the state budget allocated $50 million in downpayment assistance and closing costs to low and moderate-income homebuyers.
“Let’s say you have your eye on a $300,000 home which requires a 10% down payment; your new job will allow you to save $15,000 over time to pay for half of the down payment, and our Time-to-Own program will provide a forgivable loan for the other $15,000. Bingo, you just bought your first home,” Lamont said.
But it’s unclear if he will be able to impact the market enough for there to be a home to purchase.