OLR Bill Analysis

HB 7297

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION IN THE DUTY TO PROMOTE FAIR HOUSING AND REQUIRING A STUDY OF CONNECTICUT'S HOUSING INVENTORY AND CURRENT AND FUTURE HOUSING NEEDS.

SUMMARY

This bill establishes a private right of action (i.e., right to sue in court) to enforce state housing agencies' duty to administer their housing programs to (1) affirmatively promote fair housing choice and integration and (2) serve the lowest income households. However, because the bill does not make failure to comply with these fair housing obligations a “discriminatory practice” under CGS 46a-51, it is unclear whether they can be enforced in the same manner as other housing discrimination suits.

By law, “state housing agencies” are the Department of Housing (DOH), Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), and Connecticut Housing Authority (CHA). (In practice, CHA is not active and its duties were transferred to CHFA.)

The bill also requires CHFA, in cooperation with DOH, to analyze the gap between the statewide housing inventory and the state's current and projected housing needs. CHFA must submit the results of the gap analysis to the Planning and Development Committee by January 1, 2018.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the housing stock gap analysis provision and July 1, 2017 for the private right of action.

PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION ( 1)

Existing law requires state housing agencies, (1) within available resources and to the extent practicable, to prioritize serving lower-income households and (2) in the programs they administer or supervise, to affirmatively promote fair housing choice and racial and economic integration. The bill makes failure to comply with these requirements enforceable by a private right of action.

As under existing law for suits alleging a discriminatory housing practice, anyone suing to enforce a state housing agency's fair housing obligations must bring the action in Superior Court within a year after the alleged violation. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the attorney general may intervene in the suit and the court may grant injunctive or other relief, including compensatory damages (e.g., costs for obtaining alternate housing) and punitive damages of up to $50,000.

HOUSING STOCK GAP ANALYSIS ( 2)

CHFA must, in cooperation with DOH, conduct a study analyzing the gap between the state's housing inventory and its current and projected housing needs over the next year, five years, 10 years, and 15 years. The gap analysis must assess the need for both rental and ownership units and identify how needs vary by demographic group, considering characteristics such as income, age, familial status, disability status, and race. The analysis must assess housing stock gaps by the smallest feasible geographic region.

In conducting the analysis, CHFA must consider it a state priority to ensure:

1. all residents have access to affordable housing (i.e., housing that costs no more than 30% of a household's income) and

2. households with incomes of up to 120% of the area median income have access to affordable housing in opportunity areas (i.e., areas identified using opportunity mapping analysis that includes a census tract level assessment of educational, economic, and neighborhood characteristics).

CHFA must report its findings by January 1, 2018 to the Planning and Development Committee.

BACKGROUND

Related Case

In Asylum Hill Problem Solving Revitalization Association v. King, 277 Conn. 238 (2006), an interest group and an affected resident sued CHFA alleging it failed to administer a tax credit program in a manner that promoted racial and economic integration, as required by CGS 8-37cc. The Connecticut Supreme Court examined the statute's legislative history and determined the legislature did not establish a private right of action to enforce its requirements, including pursuant to CGS 46a-98a.

Related Bill

sSB 752, reported favorably by the Housing Committee, requires CHFA to conduct a nearly identical housing stock gap analysis.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

15

Nay

6

(03/24/2017)