Planning and Development Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
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.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Committee on Planning & Development
REASONS FOR BILL:
Since the adoption of C.G.S. 8-37cc CT statutes have required the Department of Housing and the CT Housing Finance Authority to promote racial and economic integration in all programs administered or supervised by any housing agency. Not included in that law is the ability of an individual to bring a law suit against an agency for fulfilling its mandate. This is one of the issues that this bill is trying to rectify.
HB 7297 would also require CHFA and DOH to analyze rental vs. ownership demographics, and identify the gap between the state's current housing inventory and the need over the next 15 years. This information will help to lay the ground work for policy development in the future.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Evonne Klein, Commissioner-Department of Housing(DOH):
DOH submitted testimony in opposition to HB 7297. They state that although the bill is attempting to address a very significant issue which is fair housing. The department believes that this legislation would potential expose both DOH and the CT Housing Finance Authority(CHFA) up to frivolous lawsuits. DOH states that they take the issue of fair housing very seriously but point out that anyone who does not receive the housing tax credit they applied for could potentially sue the Department.
DOH also opposes the second provision of the bill which would “require CHFA, in cooperation with DOH, to conduct a study analyzing the gap between the statewide housing inventory and the state's current housing needs and projected housing needs over the next several years.” DOH states that while the provision is well intentioned it would be a costly endeavor that would ultimately take resources away from DOHs primary mission of providing fair housing.
Tanya Hughes, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO):
CHRO stated support for the private right of action however had several significant concerns with the language of the bill. They state that it is CHROs mission to investigate and prosecute allegations of Racial and Ethnic housing discrimination. However the burden of creating and additional cause of action would out tax the commission at its current funding and staffing levels.
They also point out that the placement of an entire section (for the purpose of a housing study) into CHRO general statutes title 42a would mislead the public as those statutes do not readily deal with housing or zoning and do not even make mention of DOH or CHFA both of which are mentioned in section 2. of the bill. They ask that the new section be moved to the appropriate general statutes title 8 which deals in housing, economic and community development.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Amber Townsend provided testimony in support for HB7297. She stated that growing up in Chicago her community was largely segregated. She often saw a stark contrast between the area her childhood school was located in and the community she grew up in. She sees a similar scene while attending Trinity University here in Hartford.
Robin Newton, Connecticut Association of Zoning Enforcement Officials (CAZEO):
CAZEO provided testimony in support of HB7297. They stated that a diverse housing stock is a goal that all communities in CT should support. They are especially pleased to with the provisions of section 2. That would require a study to be conducted by DOH and CHFA to determine Connecticut's housing stock. CAZEO suggests also including a study of 8-30g. They suggest that by studying the need and inventory they will be able to assess whether 8-30g is really providing progress towards diversifying housing stock in Connecticut. They point out the example of working urban professionals who make too much to rent but not enough to purchase either an apartment or house within a city.
Amanda Kennedy, CT Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA):
The CCAPA stated support for HB 7297. The point out that there currently no agency or organization projecting the future housing needs of Connecticut population meanwhile housing has become increasingly unaffordable. CCAPA cites the statistic that renters who have difficulty finding housing affordable to them has gone up from 1/3 to ½ of all renters within the last 15 years. South Central Council of Governments (SCCOG) has put together trend data for housing based on population projections received from the Connecticut state data center. This projection shows that there will be an increased demand from lower wage people aged 20-30.
CCAPA believes that a study of Connecticut housing stock and a projection from that data will assist municipalities to plan for future housing needs and address the issue of affordable housing in their communities.
Boggs, Erin, Executive Director -Open Communities Alliance(OCA):
Erin Boggs on behalf of the OCA provided significant testimony in favor of HB 7297. In her written testimony she provides a series of maps. These maps summarize a few criteria in simple images. One is opportunity, which is measured on factors such as school performance, job access, crime and poverty rates, and home ownership levels.
She summarizes this map explaining that in Connecticut High opportunity areas frequently border low opportunity areas.
She summarized the reasons for the bill see below.
1. Connecticut is one of the most segregated states in the nation and this is undermining family stability and our economic productivity.
2. If passed, this proposal would function to limit litigation because it would provide the state's housing agencies with clear guidance from the legislature on how to carry out their duties.
3. The state has only become more segregated since 1991, meaning that without enforceability, this provision is not achieving the result the legislature intended.
4. There is significant case law and regulatory guidance at the federal level to assist state agencies with understanding their affirmatively furthering obligations.
5. Making the state affirmatively furthering fair housing obligation more meaningful will
6. help ensure that HUD funding, which is contingent on proactively promoting integration, continues in Connecticut.
Raphael Podolsky, Connecticut Legal Services:
The Connecticut Legal service submitted testimony in support of HB 7297. They stat that Connecticut statutes have explicitly required the Department of Housing (DOH) and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) to promote racial and economic integration through fair housing in all their programs. CT Legal Services stated however that “The courts have held, however, that, because mandatory statutes do not include an explicit right to sue, they do not give anyone a right to go to court to challenge the agency's failure to comply with this mandate”
They also state that the housing study will provide groundwork for planning productive policy on the topic in the future.
Other Sources of Support:
Elysa Gordon, Harford Foundation for Public Giving
Rachel Leventhal-Weiner PhD
Royster Constance, Open Communities Alliance, (OCA)
Rev. Josh Pawelek
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities(CCM):
CCM stated opposition to section 2 of the HB 7297. They stated that they were unaware of a need for this and other associated studies.
Reported by: Wade Packer