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CT bill aims to improve affordable housing options near transit stations

A rendering of an affordable housing development -- dubbed Marsh Hill Station -- that the town of Orange rejected.
A rendering of an affordable housing development -- dubbed Marsh Hill Station -- that the town of Orange rejected.

A new zoning bill would allow denser housing development around Connecticut’s train stations, with goals of making housing more affordable and providing easier access to transportation, experts said during a public hearing Monday.

House Bill 5429, backed by advocacy group Desegregate Connecticut, would require towns to allow housing with at least 15 units per acre within a half mile of a passenger, commuter rail or bus rapid transit station. At least 10% of the units would have to be designated as affordable.

Several local officials and legislators spoke against the bill, saying it would primarily increase density, not affordability. They also said the bill doesn’t take into account the unique needs of Connecticut’s towns.

Under the bill, which would go into effect Oct. 1, developers wouldn’t need to undergo the public hearing process to build in those areas, and decisions on permit applications must be issued within 65 days of submission.

Supporters say that the bill, which supports a concept often called transit-oriented development, would increase overall housing stock in Connecticut and allow people to easily use public transportation for commutes.

Access to transportation is often particularly challenging for people with lower incomes, many of whom don’t have cars. Public transportation also benefits the environment if fewer people drive.

Supporters also said the zoning would increase foot traffic to local businesses close to the stations.

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