PO Box 163, Fairfield CT 06824

CT Zoning Laws Proposed – What You Need To Know! SB 551 & SB 554

There is an attempt by politicians in Hartford to leverage the well-intentioned social justice movement into achieving unrelated activist policy goals (or worse, real estate market manipulation). This document explains everything one needs to know about why this bill will wreak havoc on our local communities WITHOUT actually helping low-income families. Groups like DesegregateCT seek to discredit and shut down all opposing views by resorting to ad hominem attacks.  Using tactics such as labeling opponents “segregationists” and “racists” should clue everyone into what is really happening here.  Resorting to name calling exposes the inherent weakness and the lack of merit in the new bill itself. 

With the recently experienced assault on our Democracy, a heavy-handed top-down approach from the State is anything but democratic. CT’s 169 towns have unique traits and geographic differences such as wetlands, watersheds, etc. Towns have also developed existing zoning strategies to actually increase affordable housing without the State’s involvement. For example, Darien developed inclusionary zoning laws where if a developer wants to build more than five units, 12 percent of those units must be below market rate. New Canaan created a fund of developers’ fees to build equity in sponsoring additional affordable housing.

By Right Development transfers power from YOU to Developers:

SB 551 and SB 554 require that 50% of the land within one-half mile of transit stations and commercial corridors be zoned for Multi-family housing AS OF RIGHT. This means developers can bypass the local Planning & Zoning Commission hearings that review each application and the unique challenges of each parcel of land.  Multi-family housing is vastly more complex than a single-family home.  (Imagine trying to escape from a fire on the third-floor apartment building vs. your single-family home). A more rigorous review process is required for these projects with higher standards and more complex building codes. 

Denser development may require many more services, such as new roads, sewers, water supply, teachers, police, fire protection, EMS, and recreation spaces. The town would surely need to conduct a fiscal impact analysis to determine additional staffing or infrastructure upgrade requirements, which may lead to property tax increases, thereby making such projects LESS affordable.  “As of right” permitting will also tie the hands of local planning and zoning commission to issue conditions on projects, such as imposing fees on developers to help cover adverse impacts on the town’s infrastructure. Without these hearings conducted by local planning and zoning commissioners, who are elected by residents, it would place the burden of such costs squarely on local taxpayers. 

Does NOT solve racial segregation and is Anti-Urban

The proposal uses assumptions that developers building multi-family housing can also build low-to-moderate income housing without considering lower profit margins. There is no guarantee that developers won’t charge market rates when a four-family unit on one parcel is automatically deemed approved. Given CT’s troubling recent trend of out-migration, it’s reasonable to believe the only people that can afford to move to and occupy these newly built units are those with the most resources, and not the neediest, from CT’s own large urban centers. Hartford used to have 60,000 more residents than it does today. Without the prospect of overall population growth in CT through job and economic opportunities, this proposal would accelerate the depopulation trend and devastate our cities by drawing out the remaining middle class. Gov. Lamont’s economic chief Lehman is on record as saying, “In Connecticut, we’ve got the suburban and rural thing covered. We need to work on the cities for the next 25 years.” Without an urban component in this proposal, we would only exacerbate the problem of racial injustice, while creating an environment of potentially predatory “for-profit” building in the suburbs. 

Dated Census Data on Racial Segregation:  

Desegregate CT claims that CT is among the nation’s most racially segregated states. The Brown University study they quote uses 1970 – 2010 Census data.  WestCOG used the same data to create an interactive storymap to compare Connecticut to both the Northeast and the United States, respectively. This study shows CT ranked 16th out of all 50 States, and 5th out of 11 States in the North East when measuring its Dissimilarity Index between White and Non-white residents (hardly an outlier). With updated data from Census 2020, CT would rank even more favorably.  In fact, by a wide margin, Western CT. (Fairfield County) has built the most new multi-family homes (39% of the entire State) from 2008 to 2017. Western CT scores highest of any CT region in Population Growth and second highest in People Per Housing Unit, from 2000 to 2015. Clearly, Western CT is making great progress and has been moving in the right direction, all without state-mandated interference.

Your Property Values:

Darien Talks Housing cites a study in the Darien Times to “indicate that home values do not decrease in the presence of affordable housing”. However, there is no mention of the following paragraph from the same study, which states: “Deng (2011a) – the study finds that high-poverty neighborhoods enjoyed the most positive changes from low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment, while 63% of the LIHTC developments that had the most severe negative impacts were located in majority middle-class suburbs.” 

A separate study by Stanford Graduate School of Business indicates “a new building in a poorer neighborhood created a revitalization effect. That, in turn, drew more homebuyers, particularly non-minorities. On the flip side, unlike low-income areas, wealthier neighborhoods didn’t see affordable housing as an attractive amenity. And that impact rippled through the area years after construction started. In the high-income areas, you saw a strong housing price drop very locally, and then it radiated outward over time…The price effects remain even after 10 years.”

In Sara Bronin’s (Founder of Desegregate CT) own words, “If you increase supply, prices will come down.” Ironically, it won’t be the prices of the new multi-family housing, but your single-family home values that come down.

Zoning Myths Debunked:

  1. The bills demand towns to remove minimum parking requirements from projects. This would be highly problematic and could easily lead to residents using up street parking reserved for downtown businesses. The argument is that parking is not required because residents would not need a car since the development is near local train stations. However, it fails to consider the high cost of Metro North train fares and the fact that low-income commuters are not riding the train. Even if one can afford it, current public transportation has limited routes and frequency and will not replace the use of vehicles.
  2. Another argument of DesegregateCT’s is that younger people do not prefer single-family homes and driving cars so towns must build multi-family homes near transit stations for them to want to buy. If you’re a young person who wants to live in the city, you will move to a city. You do not consider moving to the suburbs and demand it to be more city-like. People move to the suburbs for schools and open space.


As quoted by David Fink, a housing policy consultant and affordable housing advocate in the Hartford Courant, “There are many examples of beautiful mixed-income housing in high-resource towns all over the state — Darien, New Canaan, Old Saybrook, Bethel, South Windsor, Fairfield, Brookfield, Avon, Suffield, Stonington, Farmington, and on and on.” Our towns care deeply about diversity and sustainable development.  We will continue to make progress against our goals by implementing common-sense and market-driven solutions, overseen by locally elected and accountable representatives. State-mandated decrees will only make things worse for both our suburbs and our cities.