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Sewer infrastructure bill would incentivize affordable housing for impoverished CT communities

Wastewater flows between tanks at the treatment facility on Richard White Way in Fairfield, Conn.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Wastewater flows between tanks at the treatment facility on Richard White Way in Fairfield, Conn.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would improve sewer systems in Connecticut communities where the poverty rate is less than 20%.

The bill would also incentivize affordable housing construction, which is often hindered by a lack of sewer infrastructure able to handle new apartments.

The measure, proposed by advocacy group Open Communities Alliance, would allow towns and cities to draw from a $50 million fund to improve sewer systems.

The program would help municipalities meet their affordable housing goals, according to Open Communities Alliance Executive Director Erin Boggs.

“In order to fulfill that obligation, if towns feel like having sewer infrastructure is critical to getting there, then our hope is that they'd be really enthusiastic about this availability of money,” Boggs said.

Boggs is unaware of any previous proposal of this kind, considering most sewer infrastructure aid comes from the federal government.

“What we're trying to create here is a special fund to make sure that there's no barrier for towns who have an affordable housing obligation that they are not able to get done,” Boggs said.

The program is voluntary, but would incentivize more affordable housing production, according to Hugh Bailey, a policy consultant with Open Communities Alliance.

“This is an opt-in policy, so nobody would be coming into town and laying down sewers down your street without your approval, but it would be an option that's available,” Bailey said.

About 130 towns and cities in Connecticut have sewers, either by connecting into another municipality's system or by using their own, which may weigh on the local sewer infrastructure. The remaining 41 municipalities have no sewer systems.

Municipalities that have Water Pollution Control Authorities (WPCAs), also create water pollution control plans. While WPCAs aren’t required to author water control plans, if they choose to do so, and incorporate affordable housing capacity, the municipality can draw from the $50 million fund, Boggs said.

The bill would incentivize WPCAs to include a vision for affordable housing accommodation in their sewer planning.

The proposal is being considered by the chairs of the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee.

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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