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CT downtown areas may see increase in housing with bill advancement

FILE: Vacant, blighted buildings along Bartholomew Avenue in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford as seen in 2022.
Mark Mirko
Hartford Courant
FILE: Vacant, blighted buildings along Bartholomew Avenue in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford as seen in 2022.

Connecticut downtowns may soon be more populated as lawmakers advanced a bill that would incentivize housing production.

The General Assembly’s joint Planning and Development Committee voted 12-9 last week to approve passage of a Senate bill proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The bill would expand and define the role of the Municipal Redevelopment Authority (MRDA), which was established by Lamont in 2019 but was never funded, according to the bill documents.

The proposed legislation would enable the authority to gather plans presented by local municipalities for downtown areas in which they want developers to invest.

The areas in which towns want an increase in housing are dubbed “housing growth zones” under the bill.

“Housing growth zones must be centered on a downtown development district that includes a train station or rapid bus station,” the bill documents read. “For municipalities that choose to apply to MRDA, the board will determine whether the housing growth zone is likely to substantially increase housing production.”

Municipal proposals must meet parking and affordable housing requirements for the area as well, according to the documents.

Once a housing growth zone is established and the authority takes up a town’s plans, the MRDA will be able to financially assist with housing projects contained within the zone.

State Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, a Democrat representing Avon and co-chair of the Planning and Development Committee, said the bill would create a stronger workforce in the state.

“We are hearing over and over again from our businesses the fact that we need this housing, that it’s critical to our workforce. But it’s not just critical to our workforce, it’s literally critical to everyone,” Kavros DeGraw said.

In response to Republican members of the committee who expressed concern over passage of the bill before it was complete, Kavros DeGraw said bills passed to the full assembly aren’t typically final.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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