home construction
A new home under construction in Somers, Connecticut Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Nonprofit think tank Connecticut Voices for Children urged “courageous” action on affordable housing policy following the Tuesday release of a report detailing recommendations to curb a rising number of evictions in Connecticut. 

The report is the second in a two-part series and sought to identify medium and long term policies to curtail evictions, which have spiked following the expiration of temporary tenant protections adopted during the COVID pandemic. 

“Because affordability is becoming more of an issue, we expect this to become a more serious problem,” Samaila Adelaiye, a research and policy fellow who co-authored the report, said during a morning briefing.

Connecticut ranked as the 10th least affordable state in a 2021 National Apartment Association report, which compared rent costs to income levels. 

That growing problem would have real world consequences for kids across Connecticut, Adelaiye said. Evictions disproportionately impact Black and Latino residents and families who have been evicted are more likely to experience housing instability or homelessness in the future, the report found. 

“What that means is that many families and children are going to find themselves blocked from opportunity, are going to find themselves blocked from finding their way out of economic insecurity, are going to find themselves blocked out of communities where they can thrive because the state hasn’t done enough to ensure their access to housing,” Adelaiye said.

The report included policy recommendations to increase the availability of affordable housing including both penalties and incentives for municipalities to approve housing developments. For example, the report endorsed an “affordable housing tax” proposed in 2021 by Senate President Martin Looney.

The policy, which failed to pass, would have assessed a tax on homes valued at over $430,000. The tax would have been scaled based on the percentage of affordable housing in each town so that property owners in towns with more affordable housing would pay a lower tax. 

Other recommendations included the creation of a new grant program to promote mixed-income housing developments near public transportation locations and a proposal to increase state investment in blight remediation. 

State lawmakers spent considerable time and energy debating affordable housing policies during the legislative session that concluded last month. Although the state budget included a total of $810 million for various housing initiatives, lawmakers eventually abandoned a controversial proposal designed to force towns to comply with “fair share” housing quotas. 

During Tuesday’s press conference, Emily Byrne, executive director of CT Voices, called Connecticut’s affordable housing crisis an instance of “self-inflicted harm.” 

“This crisis is fixable but it requires courageous actions and quite frankly at this point, necessary actions,” Byrne said. “The legislature did a good job this past year of tackling some solutions that stop the bleeding a little, but… the affordable housing crisis requires an array of policy solutions to make us whole. So we’ve got a long ways to go.” 

In addition to proposals to increase the availability of housing in Connecticut, Tuesday’s report also made policy recommendations to help previously evicted families secure housing by restricting access to eviction records.  

“[A] record of an eviction case with the courts could negatively affect a tenant’s ability to find suitable housing regardless of the outcome of the eviction case,” the report read. “This effectively locks many families in disenfranchised communities and limits their opportunities to find suitable housing and build wealth.”

A bill passed this year and signed by the governor attempts to address this problem by requiring the Judicial Branch to remove certain records from its website including information related to withdrawn or dismissed eviction proceedings or eviction cases decided in a tenant’s favor.