New State Amendment

By Anne White

State Representative Tom O’Dea and State Senator Ryan Fazio have worked for the passage of an amendment to House Bill 5474, seeking to alleviate the persistent tension between the town of New Canaan and the state over Connecticut’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g.

The amendment, outlined in a news release, addresses the inconsistencies plaguing the moratorium process under the statute. For years, New Canaan has grappled with the state’s stringent requirements, despite the town’s proactive steps to foster affordable housing.

Representative O’Dea didn’t mince words: “8-30g has been a failure in southern Fairfield County, especially in New Canaan and Darien. The restrictions in this statute have stifled affordable housing growth in my district, and the moratorium process has continued to pit the state against our municipalities. By encouraging municipalities to build more publicly-funded affordable housing, the state is working with our towns, not against.”

Senator Fazio echoed O’Dea’s frustration, lamenting the erosion of local control. “Local control of our towns and cities is a great tradition in our state, but 8-30g has undermined it over many decades. This reform, supported by Rep. O’Dea and me over several years, helps make 8-30g a little better by giving our towns more local control while also rewarding affordable housing done with community buy-in.”

The narrative here is one of local initiative thwarted by a rigid state apparatus. New Canaan, a pioneer in instituting a building permit fee specifically to fund affordable housing, was initially granted a moratorium in recognition of its efforts. Yet, despite surpassing the required number of affordable units, a subsequent moratorium was denied. The new amendment seeks to rectify this by allowing “eligible units completed before a moratorium has begun.”

This technical yet crucial adjustment promises a more equitable application of the moratorium process, directly benefiting towns like New Canaan. “This provision is essential to develop a more cooperative relationship between the state and municipalities and also encourage municipalities to take initiative in bolstering their affordable housing stock,” stated O’Dea and Fazio in a joint release. “On behalf of New Canaan, we want to thank our bipartisan colleagues for their support of this important measure to benefit municipalities.”

The legislative journey to this point involved impassioned testimonies from O’Dea and Fazio before the Housing Committee in March, advocating for the provision that has now been successfully incorporated into HB 5474 and passed by the Senate. Their advocacy underscores a broader critique of the state’s affordable housing strategy, which, according to them, has often seemed more punitive than supportive.

8-30g, a statute requiring that 10 percent of a municipality’s housing stock be affordable or deed-restricted, has long been a point of contention. The passage of this amendment signifies a potential shift towards a more collaborative approach, aiming to balance state mandates with local realities.

As HB 5474 awaits Governor Ned Lamont’s signature, there’s cautious optimism among New Canaan’s lawmakers that view this legislative victory as a possible blueprint for other municipalities managing 8-30g.

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