Gov. Lamont to sign new housing law, but severe shortage remains

Lamont made the announcement at Lascana Homes in Orange, where 46 brand-new townhomes rent for as little as $719 per month.

John Craven

May 13, 2024, 9:43 PM

Updated 15 days ago

Share:

More new housing developments could be headed to Connecticut under a bill that Gov. Ned Lamont plans to sign.
The legislation offers cities and towns extra incentives to allow townhomes and condos. But the state still has a long way to go to address Connecticut’s housing crisis.
SUCCESS STORY
Lamont made the announcement at Lascana Homes in Orange, where 46 brand-new townhomes rent for as little as $719 per month.
For Susan Ojeda, it means she can finally retire at 75 years old.
“I work at Milford Hospital. My rent was $1,700, taking my whole Social Security,” she said. “I had to work 24 hours a week – which doesn’t seem like a lot, but at 75, it is – because of my rent.”
Ground-floor units are set aside for seniors and renters with intellectual challenges. Younger families with children play outside. State housing leaders call it a model for the rest of Connecticut.
“Lascana Homes is more than just a housing development,” said Connecticut Housing Finance Authority CEO Nandini Natarajan. “It’s a beacon of hope.”
HOUSING SHORTAGE
Lascana Homes may be a success story, but it’s a rare one.
According to CHFA, 5,200 affordable units are in the pipeline. But Connecticut needs 92,000 of them, according to a 2023 Housing Needs Assessment.
Lawmakers say it’s becoming an economic liability.
“We have over 100,000 job openings across the state of Connecticut,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “We can’t fill those jobs if people don’t have a place to live.”
INCENTIVES VS. MANDATES
Connecticut has set aside $300 million for new housing. Lascana Homes was made possible with $6.6 million in state assistance and even more in federal funding.
But convincing many towns to approve developments like this remains a major challenge.
“Takes a little persuasion sometimes,” Lamont said Monday. “People have certain stereotypes, but we’re getting there.”
State lawmakers made modest moves this year. A new law will award towns housing credits that they can use to avoid the state’s 8-30g law, for allowing more “middle housing” like condos and townhouses. The 8-30g rules allow developers to bypass local zoning approval if a community has less than 10% affordable housing.
Republican state Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-Greenwich) voted for the bill, but he worries about communities losing local zoning control.
“I think the beauty of neighborhoods – the design of neighborhoods and buildings in those neighborhoods – is an important component of what makes Connecticut a beautiful place to live,” he said.
Lawmakers abandoned a more ambitious plan called “Work Live Ride” that would accelerate multifamily housing near transit stations. Cities and towns that created special transit-oriented districts – with zoning for denser housing – would have gotten priority for certain state funding.
The bill passed the Connecticut House, but never got a vote in the state Senate.
“I think they ran out of time on that,” Lamont said. “I think there’s broad support for it. I would certainly sign that.”
Housing advocates say voluntary incentives aren’t enough. But Lamont said the Lascana Homes project proves they are paying off – gradually. Thanks to state incentives, Darien just approved so-called “in-law” add-on units beginning next month.
In Orange, where the town was granted an 8-30g moratorium, Republican First Selectman Jim Zeoli said he wants to work with developers – if they’re willing to work with him.
“You have to be careful,” he said. “Some developers are wonderful; some developers, you have to watch.”
LOOKING FOR HELP?
Looking for an affordable place to live? Click here for resources to help.


More from News 12