The state legislature’s Task Force on Affordable Housing heard from one developer last week who said local zoning boards and a “small vocal minority” have the money and the power to kill any affordable housing projects in the state.
Thomas Haynes, president of Haynes Group Inc., said “The affordable housing statute is great, except towns know how to create such a legal battle that a lot of developers don’t have three to five years to litigate that.”
Haynes said the battle over Quarry Walk in Oxford, which now has 162 market-rate apartments along with retail, commercial and medical space, took five to seven years to get approved.
“It was long, it was expensive,” Haynes said.
Majority Leader Bob Duff said in some instances local zoning has put the stick to the developers.
“It should not take five to seven years and millions of dollars to try and put a shovel in the ground for something that is needed,” Duff added.
He said people often point the finger at the legislature, but “local governments are putting the stick to the developers.”
Haynes said they have to give towns a carrot to give to developers if they get a project approved in a certain amount of time because the towns don’t have incentive.
“The towns have money to fight the stick,” Haynes said.
He said everyone wants housing but nobody wants “that housing.”
Delays from box turtles to traffic and every possible restriction are brought up at the local zoning level.
“It’s always the vocal minority that boards respond to,” Haynes said.
Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said as a local zoning official it’s hard for local officials not to listen to their neighbors. However, this issue is too important. Connecticut has more than 96,000 job openings and netted 57,000 new residents last year.
DiPentima said his group would be advocating for a first-time homeowners savings accounts to which employers could also contribute. He suggested that local business leaders voice approval for housing developers at local planning and zoning meetings.