Live in a hotel? CT exploring creative solutions to housing crisis

On Tuesday, housing officials told state lawmakers that they are slowly turning the tide on the crisis.

John Craven

Jan 16, 2024, 11:43 PM

Updated 189 days ago


Would you live in an old hotel? It’s one of the creative – and some might say, extreme – solutions to Connecticut’s severe housing shortage.
On Tuesday, housing officials told state lawmakers that they are slowly turning the tide on the crisis.
“100% BETTER”
Across from a Walmart on Route 80 in New Haven sits a former Days Inn. Now, it’s home for Debra Jiminez – at least temporarily. “I’ve been here since Saturday, and I guess if I can compare it to the other shelter we were first referred to, this is 100% better,” she told NBC Connecticut last month.
Eventually, the site will house 110 people. On Tuesday, Connecticut’s housing commissioner told lawmakers that these “micro-units” are one solution, as rents and home prices keep going up.
“What that allows for is, for individuals to share a room, but also to provide services within that same building,” said Department of Housing commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno.
Mosquera-Bruno told the Legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus that the state is chipping away at Connecticut’s housing crisis. She said more than 5,000 affordable units are currently under construction, although several hundred are running into delays. A family of four, making up to $60,000 dollars a year, qualifies.
Despite the new units, lawmakers complained that many buildings won’t accept housing vouchers.
“Although they have the vouchers, they may not find an apartment,” said state Sen. Pat Billie Miller (D-Stamford). “So it’s not enough to just have the voucher; it's finding the housing.”
Purchasing a home is even tougher right now, with inventory at historic lows. But Mosquera-Bruno said 2,874 first-time buyers have received $103 million in down payment assistance through the state’s popular “Time to Own” program. More than half of recipients are minorities.
Buyers can apply here to receive up $50,000 in forgivable loans. “Time to Own” still has $36.6 million left to distribute, according to DOH.
Housing groups and realtors say the answer is simple: build more affordable homes. What’s not simple is deciding where to build them.
This year, advocates may re-introduce a bill imposing “Fair Share” housing quotas on smaller towns. Developers complain that restrictive zoning laws make it nearly impossible to build affordable homes, but many communities argue that density will ruin their small-town character, hurt the environment and strain their limited resources.
Many Democrats also want to re-visit rent caps and a ban on “no fault” evictions. Both failed last year after landlords argued it would backfire and take units off the market.
“Going into this 2024 legislative session, we're going to be busy with housing,” said Deputy Housing Commissioner Brandon McGee.
Owning her own home is Debra Jiminez's goal. But after living in a shed recently, she said the old Days Inn is at least a start.
“The homeless today isn’t the same homeless as it was in the 80s,” she said. “You’ve got people who have full-time jobs. They have a vehicle.”

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