Hartford Foundation Submits Testimony in Support of Several Bills to Prevent Homelessness and Expand Access to Quality, Affordable Housing in Higher Opportunity Neighborhoods
Recently, the Hartford Foundation submitted written testimony in support of several bills to prevent homelessness and expand access to quality, affordable housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods.
As part of our efforts to dismantle structural racism and improve social and economic mobility for Black and Latinx residents of Greater Hartford, the Hartford Foundation seeks to increase the number of Hartford residents living in higher opportunity neighborhoods. Higher opportunity neighborhoods are defined by a variety of factors, including low unemployment, better performing schools, lower crime and greater availability of quality, affordable housing stock.
The Hartford Foundation seeks to increase the numbers of Hartford residents living in higher opportunity neighborhoods both by increasing the opportunities in Hartford neighborhoods and by increasing the ability of Hartford residents to choose to move to other higher opportunity areas throughout the Greater Hartford region.
Significant portions of the Foundation’s past and current investments have focused on preventing and reducing homelessness in the Greater Hartford region. On an annual basis, the Foundation provides approximately $1 million to local nonprofit organizations to provide access to emergency shelter, housing subsidies, case management, eviction prevention/landlord negotiation, employment services, and housing services to residents’ at-risk or experiencing homelessness. This includes support to the Greater Hartford Coordinated Access Network for rapid re-housing services during the coldest months.
For these reasons, the Foundation supports Senate Bill 86 which provides $2.3 million additional funding annually for the Coordinated Access Networks (CANs) and 2-1-1. These funds are crucial to advancing our statewide efforts to end homelessness. The CAN infrastructure reduces service duplication and allows resources to be used efficiently to assist households by providing a single point of entry, unified assessment, diversion, prioritization, and matching to appropriate and available housing resources. The CAN system allows our communities to respond better to client needs, and to assign services and housing more effectively and efficiently, including prioritization of those with the most severe and complex needs.
The Foundation also supports the concepts raised in Senate Bill 804, Act Concerning Inclusion in Certain Communities, including the bill’s prioritization of permitting a mixture of housing options including accessory dwelling apartments and middle housing types to incrementally expand access to quality, affordable housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods. We also support the legislation’s call for requiring training for local land use commissioners to educate them on existing federal and state affordable housing laws.
The Foundation also offers its support of House Bill 5681, An Act Concerning Municipal Opportunity Reimbursement and Educational Equity, a proposal which seeks to incentivize municipalities to adopt more inclusive affordable housing policies. Municipalities that develop local zoning ordinances that further fair housing practices and expand the development of affordable multifamily housing, mixed-use development, and accessory dwellings will enable a diverse mix of households to live in their communities and would benefit from this proposal.
The Foundation also offers its support of House Bill 6239, An Act Concerning Housing Funding Allocation and Segregation, which requires the Department of Housing to gather data to determine whether state housing funding decisions impact racial and economic segregation. According to an investigation by The Connecticut Mirror and ProPublica, since the mid-1980s, Connecticut has awarded almost $2.2 billion in low-income housing tax credits to construct 27,000 affordable housing units in the state. Of those units, just 10 percent were built in prosperous towns, with about 80 percent located in struggling communities, creating concentrated “pockets of poverty” in our urban areas.
The Foundation also supports House Bill 6240, An Act Concerning Payment In Lieu of Taxes for State Housing Authority Properties. Like House Bill 5681, this legislation would provide financial incentives to municipalities that expand affordable housing in their communities. We support this proposal to provide PILOT funding to municipalities for State Housing Authority Properties, at one hundred percent of the amount of municipal property taxes that would have been paid of taxable properties.
The state needs a substantial increase in the supply of deed-restricted affordable housing units. This bill would create an opportunity for communities to provide the state with more of these units while allowing them to maintain local property tax rolls. While both HB 5681 and HB 6240 would require substantial state investments, they could provide the type of positive reinforcements necessary to allow municipalities to diversify their communities and create more affordable housing to strengthen the long-term future of our state.
The Foundation also offers its support of House Bill 6430, An Act Concerning Housing Authority Jurisdiction, which provides public housing authorities with the discretion to expand their jurisdiction to provide the residents they serve with access to housing options in high and very high opportunity communities. Our strategic priorities explicitly support increased housing choice and mobility for residents to ensure better access to higher paying jobs, diverse neighborhoods and quality schools. The Foundation has seen how the current system has severely limited families’ access to housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods.