The Zoning Atlas developed by Desegregate Connecticut identifies the extent to which communities limit housing choices. Desegregate Connecticut

I’m just an engaged citizen, active in local government, and opposed to state House Bill 6611 and Senate Bill 1024. These are part of a family of bills that aim to desegregate rural Connecticut by assuming significant control of local zoning in the hopes of creating new opportunity for affordable housing. I oppose all of them not because I’m a racist, or because I’m afraid or change resistant, but because these bills will not desegregate and bring increased affordable housing throughout Connecticut as promised.

I learned much from the state’s Planning and Zoning Committee’s 24-hours of hearings on these bills, but I’m honestly more concerned by their content and frustrated by some of the public testimony. It’s very troubling for me to listen to 24 hours of mischaracterizations about our state’s racist history and who we are by a small group of purported experts, siloed academic extremists and singularly impassioned advocacy groups.

I know of no one anywhere who does not support everything, and anything related to the justice inherent in desegregation and increasing affordable housing. But, it’s clear that these proposed bills, as currently constructed, will not achieve these very important goals.

If you really want to de-segregate and increase affordable housing in small town Connecticut, try being honest.

To deliver the results you seek, you will need to address the following three deficiencies within these bills:

  • A clear and straightforward town specific and market-based definition of affordable housing. The existing definition is unfair to markets, market values, specifics towns, average incomes, and the reality of housing options.
  • Establishing affordable housing target thresholds for each town and creating a calculator for each towns use to determine their targeted amount as well as any deficiencies based on their actual economic data. This formula would require that you include things like town specific rental and purchase price median market values, AMI, housing stock and all local economic housing measures. When legislators create complicated policies, these standardized calculators help to ensure fairness, an equal standard of measure and an attainable goal.
  • Devising a necessary state subsidy program for deficient towns because investors and developers will not build below market values unless they are subsidized.

I think improving inclusivity and diversity throughout small town Connecticut is possible, but it requires complete honesty and openness about the necessary solutions.

Bob Chester lives in Somers.

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