HARTFORD, CT - 09/21/2019: The Willow Creek development in Hartford's North End in Hartford, CT, September 21, 2019. Monica Jorge
Willow Creek Apartments are being constructed in Hartford with the help of $55 million from the state. All the units are reserved for those with limited incomes. Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Gov. Ned Lamont will propose millions of dollars in funding to build affordable housing in Connecticut when he unveils his spending priorities tomorrow, but he is not prepared to submit legislation that tackles the state’s high housing costs.

The Democratic governor is seeking $300 million in bonding for affordable housing construction, sources said, but roughly 40 percent of that involves previously approved financing for housing that was never spent.

“We are going to continue to grow and expand on that,” Lamont said Monday when asked about his plans for affordable housing funding. “Housing becomes a big piece of what we’ve got to do going forward.”

Asked if he intends to propose housing legislation, Lamont said, “Not at this point.”

Connecticut has the 5th highest average housing costs for homeowners in the nation. For those renting, their costs are the 10th highest, according to U.S. Census data.

Housing advocates see the governor’s intention to provide funding this year as progress, particularly since last year Lamont failed to allocate any money in his budget for affordable housing construction.

The governor also said he intends to leverage state funding for development around transportation hubs by linking it to a town’s willingness to include affordable housing.

“It just makes sense to me to make sure that more people have easier access to public transportation. Get them out of car, walk along there, that would be my priority as I do affordable,” Lamont said.

But, he added, state laws don’t need to change to enable him to use transportation funding to entice towns that are otherwise reluctant to build affordable housing.

“It’s fabulous the governor is thinking about incentivizing affordable housing,” said Erin Boggs, the leader of Open Communities Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group in Connecticut.

Although welcome news to advocates, the money Lamont is proposing for affordable housing — though significant — is just the first step in a long and uncertain process toward making investments in this area.

Financing for capital projects must be approved both by the General Assembly and by the State Bond Commission — a 10-member panel chaired by the governor and staffed by his budget office. And even if those approvals are granted, the treasurer may not issue bonds if the Executive Branch isn’t ready to spend the money.

As state government struggled with deficits throughout much of the past decade, it amassed billions of dollars in stranded bonding — proposals to finance projects that never became reality. That increasingly became an issue over the past decade. Governors stalled projects — and thereby the borrowing to pay for them —  because there weren’t sufficient funds in the state budget to cover the debt payments.

According to the latest monthly projections from state Treasurer Shawn Wooden, Connecticut has amassed more than $12.4 billion in authorized bonding — for all types of projects — that still has not cleared the bond commission. There also is nearly $8.6 billion in bonding that has been approved both by lawmakers and by the commission, that has not been issued — let alone spent.

Even if the state does make the full $300 million investment in affordable housing, advocates like Boggs say it won’t solve Connecticut’s affordable housing problem, which has led to extreme segregation.

“That is a very limited part of what needs to happen. It is just one small tool that can be used to address poverty concentration in Connecticut,” said Boggs.

A recent series of articles published by the CT Mirror and ProPublica showed how exclusive zoning requirements, which wealthy towns use to block affordable housing, have rendered Connecticut one of the most segregated states in the nation. As the Mirror and ProPublica reported in November, state authorities have done little to challenge those practices, instead steering taxpayer money to build more and more subsidized housing in poor communities.

The co-chairs of the legislature’s Housing Committee last month vowed to address Connecticut’s high housing costs and the resulting segregation by pushing a so-called “Right to Housing” agenda to ensure that every resident has access to housing.

The suburbs surrounding New Haven are more exclusive than Silicon Valley and Austin, according to research published last month by Yale Law School Professor Robert C. Ellickson, who calls the New Haven region “the land of large lots” because 76% of the land requires at least a half-acre to build a single-family home, compared to 53% in Silicon Valley. Only 1% of the land is zoned for multifamily development, compared to 10% in Silicon Valley.

An increasing number of states are addressing high housing costs and passing legislation aimed at tackling the problem. The national news outlet Stateline reported last week that 28 states and Washington, D.C. last year passed a variety of laws that address the housing affordability problem.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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  1. This is more bad economic policy from Democrat “leaders”. The $12.4 billion in already authorized bonding needs to be rescinded and $8.6 billion in bonding that has been approved needs to be canceled. We have $120 billion in unfunded liabilities and pensions that are not even 35% funded. Until those obligations are funded in 80% range we should not be taking on more debt unless it is going directly into stimulating the economy. It is a far better idea to reduce taxes (both income and property) on the middle class so they will have more money to make their own choices.

  2. Low property taxes mean more affordable housing.its difficult to own a home when your taxes per month are higher then your principle and interrest your paying out every month.

    1. That makes way too much sense and stops plantation growth. They do not want home ownership. They want welfare and low income working poor and middle class slaves to live and work were they tell them, and to walk and eat what the state tells them, and to be chipped and data mined as the state tells them. Transportation oriented development is a Communist’s dream.

  3. This is the biggest waste of taxpayer money, ever. This is all part of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development housing and Transportation oriented development project out of the United Nations. These ‘affordable housing’ developments are LOW INCOME PROJECTS that are plantations for the poor and minorities. Dems love keeping people on plantations far from opportunity but close enough to a voting site to pay on election day. There is no affordable housing problem in CT except in areas where rich Dems tear down ethnic neighborhoods and destroy peoples’ lives. We are in a depressed real estate market with people leaving. Why are we discussing affordable housing? There are no high paying jobs. That is the problem and the Dems created it by driving wealth out. Keep spending on these honey pots for rich Dems! The poor and middle class do not belong on plantations. Disgusted by communists in Connecticut. Diverse jobs and opportunities make housing affordable, not the other way around.

    1. Planners are announcing across the Last Green Valley that there will be no further construction of owner occupied single family housing. The American Dream is not desired by Dems in Connecticut.

    1. Hi Papa Blue Stars, in the interest of fostering deeper discussion, a quick clarification: None of the lawmakers cited above are advocating for universal homeownership.

  4. No matter what slick terms the Governor or any other politican uses, it means tax increases on working families. Bonds are tax increases, money from the Feds is tax dollars, its your money being taken from you to build someone’s house that they pay nothing or next to nothing for. CT expenses are out of sight as it is and now they want to raise your taxes again. The majority of that money is going to go into the pockets of cherry picked developers who then turn around and donate to the politicians that give them the contracts. Its a nice pay to play system. It happens everywhere, not just in CT. Then what happens is these builders throw up cheap apartments that start to go down hill the day they open and within a few years you have another eyesore that attracts only those completely on the dole and the criminal element. Its the same old song with a new piano.

  5. Hmm, I wonder if any of these low income (read: illegal immigrant) units will be located in the neighborhoods of Lamont and other legislators who are pushing this? Of course not. And this will only serve to further kill off what is left of this state’s economy and appeal.

  6. The inner cities need revitalization and the money is being directed to non owner occupied rental projects. Sadly, the Dems have been doing this to minorities for as long as I have been alive.

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