The report released Tuesday from Connecticut Voices for Children offers up several policy solutions to increase the housing stock and make it easier for people who face eviction to find a new place to live.
They include a few measures that were debated but didn’t pass during the most recent legislative session such as pushes for transit-oriented development and adding “sticks,” not just “carrots,” to push municipalities to increase the percentage of affordable housing.
“Because affordability is becoming more of an issue, we expect this to become more of a serious problem,” said Samaila Adelaiye, a research and policy fellow at Connecticut Voices and the report’s author. “What that means is that many families and children are going to find themselves blocked from opportunity.”
The report is the second in a two-part series. The first examined short-term solutions to eviction such as adding money to rental assistance programs and expanding a program that offers free legal counsel to people facing eviction.
Evictions have wide-ranging effects. They can lead to mental health issues, physical health problems, disruptions in income and difficulty accessing education for many children. Neighborhoods with high rates of eviction also tend to have less community engagement and social cohesion, according to the report.
A larger proportion of Black or Hispanic households are behind on rent and at risk of eviction, according to the Connecticut Voices report. It includes data analysis from 2017 to 2021 that shows Black renters were three times more likely to face eviction than white renters, and Hispanic renters were twice as likely.
The report also found that the lack of housing in Connecticut is a “significant driver” of evictions.
“Landlords can charge higher rents due to the shortage in housing supply, creating a housing affordability problem,” the report says. “Research has shown that the cost of replacing a tenant is much higher where there is slack in the market, discouraging landlords from pursuing evictions.”
Connecticut lacks about 89,000 units of housing that are affordable and available to its lowest income renters, and many more are spending too much of their income on housing costs.
Housing experts have said that much of the lack of affordable housing is because of restrictive local zoning ordinances that severely limit where multi-family housing can be built. Advocates and some lawmakers have pushed for statewide reform for several years.
In 2021, the legislature passed a law that allowed accessible dwelling units, also known as granny pods, although many towns opted out. This session, they considered a couple of major reforms but mandates were removed from the legislation in the last days of the session.
The report says that zoning reform measures such as those proposed under House Bill 6890 — known as Work, Live, Ride — would help expand the affordable housing stock. It would also offer more housing in dense areas close to public transportation, which would help people with low incomes access schools and jobs more easily, the report says.
The bill was pushed by advocacy group Desegregate CT, a program of the Regional Plan Association. As drafted, it would have used financial incentives to push towns to increase housing density near train and bus stations. Towns that opted to create transit-oriented communities would have been offered priority for certain state funding for infrastructure.
It met fierce opposition from opponents who said that tying infrastructure funding to the zoning changes was a false choice. They also said the measure would have watered down local control and imposed a one-size-fits all solution on towns that have individual planning needs.
The bill didn’t pass this session, but advocates and lawmakers have said they’re likely to push for it again next year.
This session, the legislature did approve nearly $1 billion in bonding toward housing over two years and passed several new renter protections, including a measure that requires eviction records are removed from court websites within 30 days if the cases are withdrawn, dismissed, or the tenant wins.
“The state’s affordable housing crisis is one of self-inflicted harm, and we’ve slowly been bleeding out,” said Emily Byrne, executive director at Connecticut Voices, at a press call Tuesday. “That said, this crisis is fixable, but it requires courageous actions and quite frankly at this point, necessary actions.”
The report also offers ideas to reduce blight in cities and expand housing authority jurisdiction, among other policy solutions.
“I think the urgency around this is that time is running out and the hope is that all of this can be addressed,” Byrne said.