For most of the final day of this year’s legislative session Wednesday, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill that would, among other things, study how affordable housing should be defined for municipalities and change the relationship between landlords and tenants.
The bill, a companion piece to a housing bill that didn’t go as far as many housing advocates wanted, bogged down debate for nine hours in the Senate before Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff called for an immediate vote around 9:35 p.m.
The bill eventually passed 23-13 and is headed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk.
“People feel like we’re forcing something on them, but this is just the beginning of trying to figure out what is best for Connecticut residents in terms of housing,” said Sen. Marilyn Moore, who co-chairs the Housing Committee.
The bill passed along party lines in the House last week, but it needed to be amended and sent back to the Senate.
In addition to looking to modify how affordable housing is defined, it increases fines for housing violations to $200 per day for landlords and requires pre-occupancy walkthroughs. It also limits rental application fees and says the monthly delinquency for any given month won’t be carried forward to future months.
The most controversial piece of it was the part that requires the governor’s budget office to establish a methodology for each municipality’s fair share of affordable housing by Dec. 1, 2024, and requires the General Assembly to approve the methodology.
Under the bill, each city and town’s affordable housing need will be determined by using the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy. With a few caveats, the particular number of affordable housing units needed in each city and town will then be assigned to them – in effect, assigning every municipality its “fair share” of the overall affordable housing need for Connecticut residents.
“We all have to dig down and figure out what is the answer,” Moore said. “This will allow us to come up with a method to build more affordable housing and what are the needs.”
Sen. Jeff Gordon, R-Woodstock, said many towns can’t meet the mark for the affordable housing definition under 8-30g.
“It’s not because they created zoning regulations to try to prevent affordable housing. It’s not because they’re creating zoning regulations to try to cherry-pick what type of people will move in. It’s because when you’re talking about a lot of towns that may have no public sewer, no public water, really no public transportation, no main street, really not much in the way of jobs … why would a developer come in without any of this infrastructure?”
Gordon said it’s not because the towns don’t want to meet that mark.
“But because there is no ability to meet some of the strict criteria this state put into place it has failed to update not just over a number of years, but a number of decades,” Gordon said.
Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, who is a landlord, also stood in opposition to the bill.
“It’s government run amok. It’s government using its power to interfere with where it doesn’t belong,” Sampson said.
He said the state should want landlords who are here because they want to be here and are willing to compete with each other for more tenants.
He said the legislature can’t abandon the notion that the market can fix itself “because there are people out there that want to participate in a marketplace and instead we invoke government.”
“The problem is a lack of affordable housing created by the government’s overregulation of an industry,” Sampson said. “In any other marketplace where there’s a demand someone creates a marketplace.”
He said the problem is supply and the government’s interference with it. He said the state can’t say it’s trying to make it harder for housing providers if it wants affordable housing in the state.