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State Representative Joe Zullo (R-99) announced Jan. 16 that he intends to introduce a duo of concept bills in the upcoming session aimed at making the state’s affordable housing regulations fairer to municipalities on the cusp of complying with the state’s 10 percent affordable housing threshold.
Zullo announced, “The state’s affordable housing statutes, which establish a target of 10 percent affordable housing for cities and towns across the state, have opened up housing opportunities across the state for families seeking safe, affordable housing options. However, in East Haven, we’ve also seen how those same statutes lend themselves to exploitation by developers, who often seek to leverage the state’s affordable housing statutes to gain approval for other, non-affordable projects. My proposed legislation will allow towns to meet the 10-percent threshold by encouraging investment in their existing housing stock, as opposed to just through new development, and will protect municipalities from over-development.”
According to Zullo, the impetus for the legislation was the public outcry following the proposal to construct just under 500 units of housing on Sperry Lane.
Zullo noted, “Seeing the public outcry and the concern over that project, I knew I had to do something to try to address the issue—not only for my constituents, but for others across the state finding themselves in similar situations.”
According to the 2018 Affordable Housing Appeals List published by the state’s Department of Housing, East Haven currently has 1,253 units classified as affordable, equating to 7.96 percent of the town’s housing stock. According to the same list, only 10 other municipalities rank ahead of East Haven with a higher percentage of affordable housing while also failing to meet the 10 percent mandate.
Zullo noted, “My first legislative proposal will allow, but not require, municipalities to offer up to a $500 yearly tax abatement to any homeowner who purchases a single-family home after passage of the legislation using a first-time homebuyer loan through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA). The proposal would allow the abatement for up to five years.”
According to the state’s Department of Housing website, homes financed through CHFA count toward a municipality’s affordable housing stock. As of 2018, East Haven had 302 homes purchased with CHFA or U.S. Department of Agriculture loans.
Zullo explained, “In towns like East Haven, where our housing stock is already very affordable, my proposal will give purchasers an incentive to use CHFA loans to purchase properties, which will both encourage investment in our community and help the town to more rapidly meet the state’s affordable housing mandate. The initiative would encourage investment in existing properties by new families, as opposed to the type of dense, new development we saw on Sperry Lane. It would also make the vast majority of the town’s homes more desirable and salable.”
In East Haven, with budgeted tax collections of approximately $55.6 million in the current fiscal year, the proposed credit would reduce collections by $10,000, or just shy of two one-hundredths of a percent, assuming 20 homeowners took advantage of the credit.
Zullo noted, “The benefit of an additional 20 affordable housing units well outweighs the minuscule loss of tax revenue. On the same token, a $500 tax credit is a meaningful savings for a first-time homebuyer.”
Zullo added, “My second proposal will seek to amend the state’s affordable housing statute to protect municipalities with an affordable housing stock of at least 7.5 percent, by shifting the burden of proof for developers who bring 8-30g applications that would result in an increase of more than 50 units, or 2.5 percent (whichever is higher), in a town’s affordable housing stock. The amendment would only be applicable to municipalities like East Haven and a handful of others with at least a 7.5 percent affordable housing stock. However, it would help municipalities guard against overly dense proposals that often threaten to overdevelop neighborhoods and strain public resources.”
Zullo added, “This second proposal would act as a bridge for municipalities like East Haven who continue to inch closer to compliance with the state’s affordable housing mandate. It would also incentivize other municipalities, including twenty others which are currently within two percent of the proposed 7.5 percent threshold, to get to that bridge threshold.”
The 2020 session is slated to be what is colloquially termed a “short session,” with the result that bill proposals unrelated to the budget must be submitted as concept bills and drafted, approved, and introduced by the committees of cognizance for each bill.
Zullo concluded, “Understanding this is a short session, I will be working diligently with the appropriate committee chairpersons and my ranking members to try to shepherd these concepts through the committee and legislative processes.”
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