Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Mike Savino photo

NEWINGTON, CT — State and local officials gathered Wednesday to see the construction of 108 units in Newington, just a short distance from a CTfastrak stop. 

Gov. Ned Lamont called the project part of a “housing renaissance in Connecticut that’s long, long overdue.” He touted funding and other help in his budget proposal aimed at keeping that renaissance going. 

But the project’s developer, Dakota Partners Principal Roberto Arista, said builders need something beyond financial assistance — they also want help with zoning rules. 

“We do get a lot of NIMBY-ism, especially with affordable housing,” Arista said. For now, Lamont wants to let cities and towns come up with affordable housing plans. 

Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno said roughly 130 towns have submitted plans, as the legislature required last year. Others have asked for extensions. 

“The towns I talk to say ‘we want more housing, we want more affordable housing,’” Lamont said. “Don’t tell us how to do it, we’re going to do it ourselves.” 

Lamont wants to use state aid to encourage towns to open up to affordable housing, with assistance programs favoring development zones in downtown areas. This is especially true of towns that have access to passenger trains. 

He also hopes the additional funding will help address the state’s housing shortage. Mosquera-Bruno said 3,500 units are currently under construction. 

Principal Roberto Arista of Dakota Partners, the developer of the 108-unit Cedar Pointe project in Newington Credit: Mike Savino photo

But the problem isn’t just what’s traditionally considered affordable housing. The Connecticut Association of Realtors says there are only 3,100 single-family homes and condos currently for sale. 

That amounts to one-and-a-half months worth of sales. Historically, the state has had around 15,000 units for sale, according to the realtors’ association. 

“I think we ought to make sure we have a clear definition of what’s affordable, in terms of the incentives that are out there,” Lamont said Wednesday, adding he wants more support for so-called “workforce housing” units to help first-time homebuyers. 

His budget proposal includes $100 million in each of the next two years to build more workforce housing, intended for families who earn between $80,000 and $120,000 a year. 

That’s coupled with the Time To Own program, which Mosquera-Bruno said has helped 1,440 families buy homes with up to $50,000 for down payments and closing costs. 

Arista said the downpayment assistance alone isn’t enough, because the limited housing supply leads to bidding wars that leave many first-time buyers priced out. He supported efforts to fund construction of more homes. 

“That’s the only way to get those first time buyers into the market,” he said. 

Still, he also wants to see the state take the lead on changing zoning rules to allow for more construction. 

“When you leave each town doing it’s own thing, they all have different ideas of what it is that they want,” Arista said. “I think government needs to push them a little bit and get them to do something that works for everybody.”

He said it took more than a year to get approval for the Newington project, named Cedar Point, because of objections from residents. 

While the objections dragged out the process, they resulted in no changes to the plans, Arista said. 

Lawmakers are considering bills to force towns to allow more affordable housing. Lamont was noncommittal on those plans Wednesday, saying he’d look at legislation if it passes. 

He also said he thinks the current process, which lets developers challenge local decisions when town’s don’t meet affordable housing thresholds, does work.