Unpopular housing bill is dead in the water

A state housing bill on inclusionary zoning that was unpopular with leaders in Wilton appears dead in the water, sparing everyone in town some grief.

“I just checked and the bill is indeed dead. It was not called for a committee vote,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) said today, March 30.

The bill, introduced at the request of the Department of Housing, was a first-of-its-kind statewide proposal that would help to increase affordable housing opportunities in all 169 Connecticut communities. Inclusionary zoning is a local tool and it already exists in 29 municipalities. HB 7298 would have enacted zoning changes that require new housing developments to include units for low- and moderate-income residents.   

Enacting statewide inclusionary zoning is not only an effective tool, but also is an essential step in the right direction towards attracting and retaining a strong workforce as well as providing affordable housing options for our young people and our senior citizens, housing officials said.

However, the bill did not go over well in Wilton. State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) said Wilton already abides by 8.30g affordable housing statutes so this would-be fix was not needed.

“This bill makes it mandatory. I do not support taking even more local control away from towns and on how they would like to grow housing or change the character of its community without their approval,” Boucher said.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said Wilton is already addressing its affordable housing needs, and referred questions to Bob Nerney, the town planning director.

At this time, Nerney said developers can build affordable housing under the state’s 8-30g law. “If the developer agrees to set aside a certain amount of housing, it changes the playing field, and the onus for denying an application shifts to the town, and the reason is limited to health and safety concerns,” Nerney said.

“I personally believe affordable housing is certainly something we need, but I think sometimes when you come up with a one-size-fits-all solution at the state level, I don’t think it oftentimes results in positive outcomes,” Nerney said.

“Affordable housing is a noble goal but there needs to be a holistic view of the topic. You can try to solve one problem and create other issues that might not be desireable,” Nerney said.