CT Sweeping Zoning Legislation, SB 1024, Aims to Increase Overall Housing Supply

A slew of legislation was posted on Tuesday, including SB 1024, which is based on the platform of non profit group DeSegregate Connecticut, who seek sweeping zoning reform in the state.

Senate Bill 1024, will be included in a public hearing of the Planning and Development Committee on Monday, March 15th at 10:00am. The hearing is via Zoom. It can be viewed via YouTube Live. Click here to register to testify.

Founded by Sara Bronin, an architect, professor, and former P&Z commissioner in Hartford who is married to Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, DeSegregate CT submit that Connecticut’s land use laws need to be updated to be more equitable.

However, the goal of HB 1024 is not to directly increase affordable housing.

Rather, DeSegregate CT says that the legislation will result in increased housing supply overall, and that in turn would result in reduced cost of housing, more diverse housing stock and the preservation of farmland by curbing sprawl.

During a recent Zoom talk organized by YIMBY Action, Bronin gave an overview of DeSegregate CT’s platform, all of which is included in SB 1024.

Main Street Zoning

A key part of DeSegregate CT’s proposal calls for “Main Street Zoning,” which would call for towns to fast track two- to four-family housing, making them “as of right.” There would be no minimum parking requirements, within a 1/4 mile of a “main street” in towns with over 7,500 people or with “concentrated development” as defined by the Census.

The proposed legislation would require towns designate 50% of an area within 1/4 mile of a main street for 2-4 unit housing, and require 10% of any development with more than 10 units be designated affordable.

DeSegreate CT says this will generate significant tax revenues and support Main Street small businesses.

Transit Oriented Development

Also, DeSegregate CT advocates for transit oriented development. Specifically, they want housing with a minimum of 4 units to 50% of the lot area within 1/2 mile of fixed transit stations.

Transit stations include ferry terminals, bus depots and train stations.

Greenwich has four train stations.

Housing under Transit Oriented Development could be live-work units, mixed-use developments, or straight-up multifamily housing.

“Of course, some desirable density around train stations might not be affordable to everybody,” Bronin said during her YIMBY Action talk. “(That’s why) one of the reasons we’ve put in our proposal a 10% affordability requirement for any building of 10 units.”

Transit oriented development is included in the proposed legislation SB 1024. Towns would choose 50% of an area within a 1/2 mile of a transit station for 4+ unit housing. Also, 10% of developments with more than 10 units would have to be affordable.

Parking Requirements

DeSegregate CT has advocated for relief from parking requirements, arguing that minimum parking requirements kept drivers reliant on cars and contributed to expensive housing.

The proposed legislation caps parking requirements at 2 spaces per 2 BR Unit or 1 space for a 1BR unit and Zero (0) parking requirement at all in transit oriented developments and main street areas.

Accessory Dwelling Units

A key component of DeSegregate CT’s platform has been the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units based on their belief that increasing the overall supply of housing will lead to more affordable housing.

Ms Bronin has said the idea was not about local control, but rather to enable homeowners to carve out an accessory dwelling unit in their single family home, and that because of their size, accessory dwelling units would be “naturally affordable.”

ADUs are included in the proposed legislation, which would legalize a small unit within a single family house (30% of the main unit or 1,000 sq ft, whichever is less), and waive the requirement for a public hearing.

Training Zoning Officers

DeSegregate CT has also also advocated for land use officials to undergo training. The proposed legislation calls for 6 hours of annual training including fair housing and environmental issues.

Form Based Codes or “Model Codes”

DeSegregate CT has pushed for form based codes, which would be model codes from Hartford that would be available free of charge to towns.

It would make all housing “as of right,” and developers would not have to go through the pubic hearing process.

DeSegregate CT says form based codes will save towns millions of dollars on litigation, and that in 2020, towns were sued 159 times for their zoning decisions.

Reaction to the proposed bill was immediate.

A group called CT Residents for Local Zoning launched a petition on Change.org, Support “Home Rule” in Municipal Zoning Decision Making. As of Thursday it had over 400 signatures.

The group says that existing local zoning local zoning and planning processes allow for a balance of private property rights, community interests, demands on infrastructure, housing needs and economic growth.

“The General Assembly in Connecticut wants to stop local decision making, public hearings, input and other relevant information from being shared to a community’s stakeholders when it comes to zoning,” the petition says. “We need to tell Hartford that special interests cannot create a one-size fits all proposal to change our local zoning laws. Land is finite and unique, and what you do with it has implications and long-term consequences. Having Hartford and bureaucrats control our land is not a solution.”

On March 15 starting at 10:00am, SB 1024 will be heard in the Planning and Development Committee via Zoom. Sign up to testify HERE.

Testimony may also be e-mailed to [email protected]

Other legislation just introduced includes:

Also, SB 804, referred by by Senator Anwar to the Committee on Housing addresses housing authority jurisdiction, training for certain municipal officials involved in planning and zoning decisions and compliance with municipal zoning regulations.

It addresses sewage flow capacity related to areas that could be developed for residential or mixed-use buildings with 4 or more. units issues with affordable housing, multi-unit residential buildings, sewerage systems,

House Bill6613 would require local zoning commissions to adopt regulations allowing accessory apartments, middle housing (duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhouses) and multifamily housing.

House Bill 6611 would assess need for affordable housing and create affordable housing goals for individual towns, as well as an implementation schedule, followed by enforcement.

See also:

A Window into the Crafting of DeSegregate CT State Zoning Legislation

Jan 25, 2021

Forum on Affordable Housing Focuses on Local Control, Property Rights and Unintended Consequences of Future State Legislation

Jan 21, 2021