Connecticut may soon join New Jersey as the only other state to require “fair share” housing plans for each municipality — as well as penalties if they fail to submit plans — if a new bill is passed by the General Assembly.
The Garden State has been unaccompanied for the five decades since its state courts encouraged the creation of fair share. And there is a reason New Jersey remains alone — as the state is number one in highest property taxes, according to Rocket Mortgage. Connecticut, however, is not far behind within the top 3 highest property taxes in the same survey. Yet, when compared to the Constitution State, housing prices have grown 30% faster in New Jersey, with the average home being $100,000 more expensive than the average home in Connecticut.
Francis Pickering, executive director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, testified fair share housing plans “sets local governments up to fail,” favoring special interest groups and increased opportunities for lawsuits.
“Fair share is bad policy, and it would be a mistake for Connecticut to go against the wisdom of its peers — who have taken a pass — and adopt it,” he stated. “The bill will force municipalities to pay for the construction of housing that developers will not build on their own. Fair share does not provide new revenue, so these costs will come on the backs of local taxpayers. A vote for Fair Share is a vote to raise property taxes.”
Other opponents to the bill (H.B. 6633) emphasized how municipalities will further lose control over zoning in addition to the implementation of 8-30g, which they believe is a right reserved for cities and towns, not the state.
“This legislation not only threatens the cherished Connecticut tradition of local control of municipal towns, but by forcing potentially unworkable mandates on them, it could jeopardize their operational and financial well-being,” said Chris Tohir, legal and policy analyst for Yankee Institute in written testimony.
Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-36th) echoed a similar sentiment, testifying that 8-30g and other attempts at removing local control over housing has not “created economic mobility” with poverty increasing in Connecticut since the law’s adoption. H.B. 6633, he believes, will “triple down on the worst characteristics” of current statutes and “demoralize our towns and cities” who would be forced to raise property taxes.
The likelihood municipalities would face a burdensome fiscal impact is “potentially significant” in the out years, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis. The office explained municipalities may incur a cost in FY25, and every ten years thereafter, to hire consultants or additional staff necessary to develop their required fair share plan.
“The cost will vary but could be potentially significant if developers still choose not to build after a municipality implements revised zoning regulations, as the cost to build could then fall onto the municipalities,” the report stated. “The extent of the cost would vary across such towns, based on the number of units that would need to be available to comply with the goals in the town’s plan.”
However, the bill’s proponents argue fair share planning would counteract rising “affordability crisis,” while eliminating “concentrated poverty and economic segregation” in favor of equitable opportunity at social mobility.
“At the core of these rising prices there is a simple fact: Connecticut is not building enough housing,” said Roger Senserrich, policy director of the Connecticut Working Families. “Our housing policy is not just making our state unaffordable for many but denying them the opportunity to thrive.”
He added fair share planning “strikes a balance between local control and development, preserving municipal authority over land use,” while at the same time being “more responsive” to demand and “preventing the current command-and-control economies and harsh supply restrictions.”
Donna Jolly, co-chair of the Coalition on Diversity & Equity (CoDE), praised New Jersey’s “successful” fair share policy, saying H.B. 6633 has the potential to develop “much needed” affordable housing, while generating jobs and tax revenue. However, she stressed small towns in Connecticut have “a long way to go.”
“Ultimately, restrictive zoning raises housing costs, stifles economic development, and prevents young professionals, families, and seniors from remaining in the community they love and more diverse populations to move to our towns,” Jolly testified. “This Fair Share bill will help make our communities more inclusive places to live and contribute to economic growth and revitalization of our cities and towns.”
The bill has been reported out of the Legislative Commissioners’ Office and is now on the House’s calendar to be voted on — though the vote is still unscheduled.