Legislative Update: PSC Celebrates Passage of Key Housing & Homelessness Bills
Dear friends and supporters,
In the last year, housing and homelessness have received an unprecedented amount of attention from advocates, lawmakers, and concerned citizens in the state of Connecticut. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for everyone to have a home that is safe, stable, and affordable to them. The ongoing movement for racial equity has shown the massive disparities which exist in our towns and communities. People across the state have made it clear that now is the time for action and systemic change on housing and homelessness.
With that in mind, we are very happy to announce the passage of two key bills that include some of the Reaching Home Campaign and HOMEConnecticut Campaign legislative priorities: H.B. 6107, the zoning & housing reform bill passed the Senate last night, while H.B. 6666 to help youth experiencing homelessness access identity documents passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
These legislative victories were possible because of the dedicated advocacy of people like you who called and emailed legislators, wrote op-eds and letters to the editor, and submitted testimony at public hearings. We cannot thank you enough for your support. Special thanks also goes to the legislative and administrative leaders in Connecticut who have dedicated themselves to passing these important bills.
More info on the bills can be found below:
Senate Passes H.B. 6107 for Zoning & Housing Reform
On Thursday, May 27, House Bill 6107 passed the Connecticut Senate. This bill includes key zoning & housing reforms to increase affordability and equity, and was inspired by a long and ongoing conversation about the role of zoning in preventing housing diversity and maintaining residential segregation in Connecticut. H.B. 6107 was passed last week by the House and now awaits the Governor's signature.
The bill includes several changes to Connecticut's zoning enabling act, including:
- Requires planning commissioners receive a minimum of four hours of training every other year.
- No longer allows local planning decisions to be based on the vague and highly subjective concept of the "character" of a community, replacing "character" with the less subjective term "physical site characteristics".
- Reiterates municipalities' obligation to affirmatively further the purposes of the federal Fair Housing Act through local regulations.
- Requires municipalities provide for the development of varied housing types and promote housing choice and economic diversity in housing.
- Creates a commission charged with, among other issues, developing guidance on how municipalities can comply with mandated local affordable housing plans.
- Reorganizes the state's Zoning Enabling Act, which has been amended more than 30 times since its inception in 1959, resulting in a law that is currently difficult to interpret.
- Permits one accessory apartment on each property with a single family house statewide, but the bill also includes a process to allow municipalities to opt out of permitting accessory apartments with two-thirds majority votes on both the local planning commission and legislative body. It is our hope that municipalities within Connecticut will see the vast benefits to permitting housing diversity and embrace this new policy around ADUs.
Despite the passage of H.B. 6107, housing advocates and legislators alike emphasize that more substantive change is needed to change Connecticut's current residential inequality.
H.B. 6107 was supported by a broad coalition of housing advocates in Connecticut, including the HOMEConnecticut Campaign for affordable housing in the state. The HOMEConnecticut 2021 Legislative Agenda included many proposals which were included in H.B. 6107, including mandating training for planning & zoning commissioners and legalizing ADUs as of right.
Because of YOUR Advocacy, House successfully passes H.B. 6666!
On Wednesday, May 26th, House Bill 6666 passed the House of Representatives. H.B. 6666, part of the Public Health omnibus bill, outlining a variety of changes to the Public Health Statutes, including revisions in Sec. 70-72 that will help allow for the waiver of fees on identity documents for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. The next step is for the bill to be reviewed by the Senate where we expect it to be passed into law.
We are so grateful for the work that has taken place within the Reaching Home Campaign to help advance this important piece of legislation. Raised in the Campaign's Youth/Young Adult Task group, youth with lived experience identified that access to identity documents was a significant barrier in connecting youth to safe, stable housing.
Previous state law allowed a fee waiver for individuals who are residents of a homeless shelter or other facility for homeless persons (CGS sec. 1-1h). However, many youth experiencing homelessness do not stay in a shelter and therefore are ineligible for this waiver.
The revisions now adopted by the House in Sec. 70-72 will allow:
- Youth aged 15-24 experiencing homelessness, as verified by their school or a provider, to obtain a copy of their birth certificate and a state ID for free
- Specifies a definition of homelessness consistent with the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
It has taken over three years of collaboration and advocacy to get us to this point. Special recognition of the dedication and leadership provided by the Youth Action Hub and the Center for Children's Advocacy, and the network of partners invested in making youth homelessness a rare, brief and one-time experience in Connecticut.