Hartford Foundation Submits Testimony on Legislation to Promote Transit Oriented Development

Read the Foundation's Testimony

The Hartford Foundation submitted testimony to the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee on Senate Bill 1141, An Act Concerning Transit Oriented Development.

As part of our efforts to dismantle structural racism and improve social and economic mobility for Black and Latino 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. In order to support these outcomes, the Foundation invests in efforts designed to increase the stability, availability, and quality of affordable housing in the Greater Hartford region; align and leverage additional investment in Hartford neighborhoods; and increase social strength and connectedness of Hartford neighborhoods. COVID has reinforced the need for all of us to live in safe, stable homes, in safe, stable neighborhoods, in safe, stable communities.

Connecticut is one of the most racially and economically segregated states in the country with 74 percent of Black residents and 68 percent of Latino residents living in census tracts assessed as low opportunity areas. The state has enabled municipalities to regulate certain land use through zoning. Exclusionary zoning practices have fostered this segregation for decades which has had devastating consequences on residents, communities, schools, and our state’s economy.

We know that the vast majority of deed restricted affordable housing as well as naturally occurring affordable housing (such as multi-family homes and apartment buildings) are concentrated in urban areas such as Hartford. This segregation results in concentration of poverty, primarily impacting Black and Latinx residents. The Hartford Foundation offers its support for efforts to generate diverse housing, including more affordable housing, in higher opportunity areas throughout the state, providing people with more choices about where they wish to live.

In its effort to make affordable, stable and higher quality housing more accessible to low-income residents of color and residents encountering housing barriers, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving offered a competitive grant opportunity focused on supporting housing policy and advocacy activities. This work included a grant to the Center for Latino Progress and its Transport Hartford Academy to advocate for Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) at the municipal, regional and statewide level. This work focuses on advocating for the inclusion of Transit Oriented Development in the Affordable Housing Plans of West Hartford, Newington, and Windsor. It also includes feedback from residents in the Parkville section of Hartford about their housing needs and from stakeholders involved in the redevelopment of this neighborhood.

The Foundation also provided grants to Desegregate CT’s advocacy and organizing efforts to support its Work Live Ride transit-oriented communities initiative, reduce minimum lot size requirements, and streamline zoning bureaucracy.

The Hartford Foundation applauds Senate Bill 1141, An Act Concerning Transit Oriented Development efforts to support the as of right development of housing with a minimum overall gross density of fifteen dwelling units per acre located within a half-mile radius of any passenger rail or commuter rail station or any bus rapid transit station.

This bill would not only help to provide easier access to public transportation but also create the density necessary to make it economically viable to construct quality, affordable housing for low and middle-income Connecticut residents. As the state is receiving an unprecedented infusion of federal infrastructure funding for public transportation, this timely proposal will ensure that more Connecticut residents have access to mass transit options. Transit oriented development provides significant benefits to workers who rely on public transit and the employers who need them. In addition, municipalities benefit from increased property tax revenues and grand list growth from new construction.

We have seen how restrictive zoning serves as a barrier to residents trying to access public transit. Creating more housing opportunities near transit – at no public cost – is a crucial step in the ongoing efforts to reform Connecticut’s antiquated and discriminatory approach to zoning, which has deprived our state of much-needed housing development and growth that has had a devastating impact on equity and economic vitality.

The Foundation looks forward to continuing its work with policymakers, nonprofits and residents to develop effective long-term policies to ensure that all Connecticut residents have access to quality, affordable housing in higher opportunity neighborhoods.