I Hope Legislators and Local Officials Recognize This Unique Opportunity and Support HB 5390

Image Credit: Robin Breeding

Share

TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

As a Florida native, when I moved to Connecticut in the fall of 2021 to attend the University of Connecticut School of Law, many people in both states thought that I must have gone crazy. Especially up here, I was asked about the cold weather or taxes with people assuming it’s only a one-way trip for snowbirds. And though it is certainly colder and has higher taxes than Florida, and I may never understand the appeal of Dunkin, I have grown to love Connecticut and because of that I want to build a life here. I have found that this state and the people here have been far more pleasant, welcoming, and kind than even what many longtime residents may believe.

I have made life long friends here, enjoyed the expansive civil rights protections that have helped me feel comfortable in my own skin, and have immersed myself in important work that I love. I even have friends from down south now considering moving to New England because of all that you have to offer from career prospects to freedom from political oppression. These are people who are getting their doctorates in Computer Science, masters in IT system administration, and top of the class digital modelers and designers. In other words, the type of people that a state like Connecticut says it desperately wants. Yet, the issue that I have and the one my friends bring up constantly isn’t snow or taxes – it’s housing. 

Connecticut’s housing crisis has gotten to the point where I have to consider that, despite the fact that I want to build my life here, the finances may not allow it. I can’t find an affordable one bedroom apartment in the same types of neighborhoods that I grew up in and I am not the only one. Classmates of mine who grew up here or are from outside the state have had to look elsewhere to more affordable housing markets if they want to start their lives after graduation, even if job prospects are better here. An entire generation of workers, entrepreneurs, and essential young people will continue to leave Connecticut or move somewhere else post graduation unless we take the necessary steps to solve our housing crisis.

HB 5390, or Work Live Ride, does just that. The bill finally begins tackling this problem in earnest by encouraging, but not requiring, the construction of more affordable homes around public transportation to drive down or eliminate costs related to car reliance; to enhance the vibrancy and attractiveness of our built environment, and to supply housing to the labor force that our economy so badly needs. This assistance goes beyond empty incentives by allowing state agencies to assist towns and cities with model guidelines that they can use to help expand housing options and to help create real affordable units in the places they are needed most and can support this increased housing stock. This bill combines local knowledge and experience with promoting best practices through technical assistance and funding from the state. It is clear that it is meant to help towns and not punish them.

I’m part of the first wave of young people looking to leave less welcoming parts of our country. I can see a lot of them wanting to come to Connecticut and I hope legislators and local officials recognize this unique opportunity and start making the changes we need to seize it. Because of this I urge the legislature and governor to support HB 5390. Help Connecticut become the best that it can be, so others can find their home here just like I have.

Sebastian Torres
Hartford, CT

Torres is a legal fellow with the housing advocacy nonprofit Desegregate CT