The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) is seeking proposals from individuals and/or organizations to develop a methodology for determining the need for affordable housing at a regional level across Connecticut, according to the agency’s Request for Proposal (RFP) dated Aug. 28.
OPM was tasked to conduct this study when language from a ‘Fair Share’ housing bill — that would make Connecticut join New Jersey as the only states to apply the practice — was shoehorned into an unrelated bill this past session titled, “An Act Establishing a Tax Abatement for Certain Conservation Easements.”
Along with the Department of Housing (DOH), the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and organizations that represent municipalities, OPM is mandated to: assess the affordable housing need in each of the state’s planning regions; create a method for distributing a fair share of affordable housing units to each municipality; and submit the methodology established to joint standing committees for approval. The study must be completed prior to Dec. 1, 2024.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates the cost for a planning and research consultant to develop the methodology to be “approximately” $200,000. Bid proposals are due by 4 p.m. on Oct. 2 and late submissions won’t be accepted. The state plans to notify the successful contractor by Oct. 23.
As of now, what will be done with the data following the study’s completion remains unknown. However, during a Jun. 2 press conference, House Speaker Rep. Matt Ritter (D-1st) suggested that zoning reform may have to be accomplished through the courts — similar to how New Jersey successfully implemented it.
During the 2023 legislative session, various proposals were aimed at tackling the state’s housing shortage by further consolidating state control over housing and zoning policies. Among the various initiatives, the Fair Share bill stood out as one of the most problematic.
The Fair Share bill would have essentially required OPM to assess the “need” for affordable housing and require municipalities to adopt fair share plans every ten years following a rigid set of criteria. Additionally, it would have introduced a complex point-based system for fulfilling obligations under tight timelines and instituted penalties for noncompliance with no appeals process.
The bill faced significant pushback, with nearly twice as many individuals who submitted testimonies expressing their opposition to it. Ultimately, the bill died without being brought up for a vote in both the House and Senate.
Disregarding public sentiment, lawmakers used a legislative tactic of introducing an amendment to an unrelated yet widely supported bipartisan bill. This move circumvented the customary public hearing process and effectively removed the mandate from the original Fair Share bill.
One indicator that the original Fair Share bill will be back is found in a June 2 press release by Open Communities Alliance (OCA) — an organization at the forefront of the Fair Share implementation effort — that expressed “disappointment” regarding the outcome of the original bill. The group emphasized the bill’s lack of “a meaningful enforcement mechanism that would have forced non-complying towns to do something meaningful.”
The group will be back as they said, “This session provided a tremendous opportunity to educate policy leaders, stakeholders and community members about Fair Share and to build a base of strong support for future advocacy.”
OCA has previously conducted a study in 2020 on the impacts of Fair Share housing, and are eligible to bid on OPM’s request. However, it is unknown if the organization has responded to the RFP as OPM will not identify the firms intending to submit a bid.