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04/11/2018

Gov. Malloy Marks 50th Anniversary of Fair Housing Act, Urges Legislature to Implement Fair Housing and Zoning Reform

50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act
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(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne M. Klein, members of the state legislature, and fair housing advocates from across Connecticut today marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, a key component of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. These sweeping reforms were enacted into law seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In recognition of today’s historic anniversary, Governor Malloy proclaimed April 11, 2018, as “Fair Housing Day” in the State of Connecticut.

To continue the significant progress made in Connecticut in recent years in the areas of affordable housing development and ending homelessness, the Governor introduced legislation this session (House Bill 5045) that seeks to promote housing choice and ensure local accountability for meeting the housing needs of all Connecticut residents.

“Today marks exactly fifty years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law,” Governor Malloy said. “It’s unfortunate that some of the most critical components of this act still stand unenforced to this day. The Trump administration dramatically scaled back an Obama-era rule that would have held our communities accountable for affirmatively furthering fair housing. That’s why I’m calling on the Connecticut General Assembly to enact the fair housing reforms in legislation that we’ve proposed. In the spirit of Dr. King, and to ensure we continue making progress in the months and years ahead, our state cannot turn a blind eye to the barriers that exist in our society. Access to opportunity through decent, safe, affordable housing should not be a politicized issue – it is a fundamental human right.”

“Affordable housing helps us attract a young workforce, keep seniors in our communities, and provides opportunity for all residents,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. “Opportunity for all should be the driver of investment, planning, and implementation of affordable housing – and every level of government has an important role to play.”

“On the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, I am reminded of how far we’ve come but I also know how much more we have to do,” Commissioner Klein said. “With last month’s bipartisan vote to pass House Bill 5045 out of the Planning and Development Committee, we are one step closer to enacting reasonable zoning reform in Connecticut. It’s no secret that our state remains one of the most segregated in the nation. Though Connecticut is already recognized for its work in the areas of affordable and fair housing, now is the time for us to lead by example once again. This proposal lays out measures that will expand access to opportunity in all of our towns and cities.”

“In the 50 years since the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, Connecticut has made some progress toward ensuring our residents have access to housing in every corner of our state, but if we are to ever truly achieve our goals of fully open and integrated communities, we need to enact fair housing reforms and inclusionary zoning so that we can fulfill the promise that the Fair Housing Act 1968 firmly envisioned,” State Representative Roland Lemar (D-New Haven), co-chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, said.

“Everyone deserves fair housing,” State Senator George S. Logan (R-Ansonia), co-chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, said. “Fifty years ago, American sent a clear message by banning discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing based on race and several other factors. Here in Connecticut, our Fair Housing Working Group has continued that progress by working on a bipartisan basis to push for more affordable, inclusive, and accessible housing. I thank the Governor, my legislative colleagues and fair housing advocates here in Connecticut and across the country for marking this major milestone in our history. We must always be striving to improve and strengthen our policies.”

“Think back to a time before the Fair Housing Act – a time of redlining and restrictive covenants, a time when racial segregation was so pervasive in this country that President Lyndon Johnson said that America was moving toward two societies: one black, one white, separate and unequal,” State Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester), co-chairman of the Planning and Development Committee and former longtime mayor of the 15th-largest city in the state, said. “Now look at Manchester. A third of our residents are black, Hispanic, or Asian. We have immigrants from India, Jamaica and Ghana, and we converse in English, French, Spanish, Hungarian and Laotian. And we were recently rated the best place in Connecticut to live by Money Magazine. So I’d say the Fair Housing Act has had a hugely positive impact on our nation since its passage 50 years ago.”

In September, the bipartisan Fair Housing Working Group, which is co-chaired by Commissioner Klein and Representative Lemar, began examining the systemic barriers to housing choice across Connecticut. A key component was to assist municipalities with their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, and to that end, make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to reverse some of the historic trends which have led to concentrations of poverty and segregation in all corners of the state. The group consists of housing policy experts, housing advocates, state legislators, non-profit developers, and for-profit developers.

The Governor’s legislation, House Bill 5045 – An Act Establishing Accountability for Fair and Affordable Housing through Zoning Regulations, contains several provisions to advance these efforts, including:

  • Makes it easier for local zoning commissions to understand and adhere to their obligations and responsibilities under current law by restructuring and realigning the statute delegating zoning authority to towns into specific categories;
  • Increases local accountability by requiring that towns, at least once every five years, demonstrate compliance with specific provisions to the Department of Housing. If a town does not demonstrate compliance, they will lose access to discretionary funding from the state until they become in compliance, unless specifically waived by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management;
  • Requires that towns design their zoning regulations to affirmatively further fair housing; and
  • Removes the provision that zoning regulations are required to be made with reasonable consideration as to “the character of the district” – an undefined and unnecessary phrase under existing state law, as the law still directs zoning regulations to consider a district’s suitability for particular uses.

The legislation was approved in the Planning and Development Committee last month by a bipartisan vote. It next moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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