He may only be a freshman legislator, but state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136th District, is pushing to change the state's affordable housing law and make it easier for towns to contest projects brought by predatory developers.
"Connecticut is in desperate need of more affordable housing. Too many of our teachers, firefighters and others are being priced out of the communities where they work," Steinberg, a Westport resident, told the state legislature's Housing Committee on Tuesday. "But we cannot give developers a free hand to do whatever they like without letting towns consider the environmental impact or if there is the appropriate infrastructure to support a project."
Currently, developers are allowed to disregard many local zoning regulations if less than 10 percent of a town's housing stock is deemed "affordable." For example, a household earning less than 60 percent to 80 percent of the state or area's median income must spend no more than 30 percent of its income on total housing costs.
Under the law, municipalities may not deny or request changes to proposed affordable housing developments unless they violate established health and safety standards. But under Steinberg's legislation, municipalities would be able to consider whether affordable housing development proposals follow "principles of smart growth."
These principals include environmental impact, existing adequate infrastructure such as proximity to mass transit or availability of utilities, and neighborhood zoning and character.
Westport's Planning & Zoning Director Larry Bradley and Representative Town Meeting member Matt Mandell testified in the bill's favor. In the coming weeks, the Housing Committee will vote on the bill.
What do you think of Steinberg's legislation? Do you think the state's affordable housing law needs to be changed?