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State lawmakers seek to incentivize affordable housing construction along CT transit hubs

A cyclist crosses the Founders Bridge from East Hartford with Hartford’s skyline in the background at dusk on Wednesday, June 07, 2023.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
A cyclist crosses the Founders Bridge from East Hartford with Hartford’s skyline in the background at dusk on Wednesday, June 07, 2023.

Increasing housing along rail and bus routes is at the heart of a bill being considered by Connecticut lawmakers.

Housing advocates are asking the state legislature to approve an updated version of the “Work Live Ride” bill passed last year, promoting housing development along main transportation corridors.

The bill’s opponents are often afraid of change and don’t realize the proposal is opt-in, not a mandate, according to Pete Harrison, director of housing nonprofit Desegregate CT.

“The reality is, it is changing anyway, we want to have positive change that includes everybody,” Harrison said. “Without this kind of proposal, the change is going to be negative and really exclusionary and keep those same patterns in place.”

This year’s version of the bill is focused on the community guidelines of transit oriented developments, increasing environmental protections and paving the way for more affordable housing development. It has more benefits for communities choosing the opt-in program, according to Harrison.

“What it means is we're incentivizing either the creation or expansion of transit oriented community districts around our rail and bus lines,” Harrison said. “It's the smartest place to grow housing and businesses, its infrastructure that already exists.”

The Office of Responsible Growth (ORG), within the state’s Office of Policy and Management, was established last year as part of the bill, with the goal of coordinating state efforts to revitalize and build economically strong, environmentally-sound communities.

If municipalities choose to opt into the program, they become eligible for state assistance and funding through ORG. The funding would be used for planning, design, infrastructure upgrades, expansion and home construction.

There’s no fiscal impact in the bill, since the funding-heavy aspect was passed last year as part of the ORG, Harrison said.

A key change in the bill this year is an emphasis on environmental protection, Rep. Eleni Kavros-DeGraw, chair of the state’s House Planning and Development Committee said.

“The local wetlands and watercourse agency will be formally involved in determining size and location of the district along with the P&Z (planning and zoning),” Kavros-DeGraw said. “I think that's critically important because we are worried about climate change, we do have to be mindful of floodplains and wetlands. and where we're building so that it's safe and accessible for people.”

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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