Unfreeze Connecticut’s Housing Markets By Removing Zoning Restrictions

Credit: Robin Breeding

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Connecticut needs zoning reform. The housing shortage is real, exclusionary zoning is real (I wrote about it almost 20 years ago), and economic and racial segregation is real – and it is holding the state back. The argument is not whether these are true (they are), but what to do about them. The state has an obligation to see that its citizens have access to decent housing, but it is my contention that Connecticut’s current affordable housing strategy including 8-30g, inclusionary zoning, and Fair Share are deeply flawed

Now is the time to chart a new course to housing abundance. We need state-wide reforms that facilitate the construction of both Missing Middle Housing and larger buildings in existing core areas (think Transportation Orientated Development or Work Live Ride). The reality is individual communities are going to be reluctant to adopt innovative zoning, and attract development, if their neighbors decide to sit back and do nothing. It’s a collective action problem that only the state can solve. The state should set up the framework, with objective performance criteria, and let the localities write the plan. In exchange, localities that adopt innovative zoning reforms, with quantified increases in development capacity, should be exempted from 8-30g. 

Other parts of the country are on the move, Connecticut risks falling behind. Houston, Nashville, Durham, Portland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Spokane, Kingston, Montana, California, and Milwaukee have all adopted or are working on innovative zoning reforms that allow the construction of single family homes and small multi-plex buildings on small lots. These types of reforms are critical to providing new home ownership opportunities and can be done in a way that still respects the character of the community – unlike some of the massive 8-30g projects.

America became a great country because of its dynamism and acceptance of change, don’t let NIMBYism cause our decline. It’s time to un-freeze our housing markets by removing the zoning restrictions that are preventing the free-market from building the housing we need.

Tim Vilinskis
Ridgefield, CT