(*From the Connecticut Open Communities Alliance)
(HARTFORD, CT) – On the 50th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act Open Communities Alliance joined Governor Dannel Malloy, Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, legislators and housing advocates at a press conference at the State Capitol to express support for a series of anti-segregation policy recommendations. The federal Fair Housing Act was enacted in the wake of 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.
Drawing on six months of work by the Fair Housing Working Group, led by Representative Roland Lemar of New Haven and Evonne Klein, the Commissioner of the Department of Housing, and supported by the policy agenda of Open Communities Alliance, legislative leaders raised three bills this session designed to unlock the economic potential of Connecticut by ensuring equal access to thriving communities.
“Despite progress, we are a long way from realizing the promise of the Fair Housing Act.” said Erin Boggs, Executive Director of Open Communities Alliance. “It is truly remarkable to witness this level of commitment to fair housing issues at the state level, and it gives us hope moving forward that Connecticut can lead the nation and be a turn around state when it comes to our deep levels of segregation. If we are successful in opening housing choices for families of color in all communities, economic prosperity will follow.”
Open Communities Alliance’s policy agenda has evolved over the last four years and was greatly assisted by students in Yale Law School’s Legislative Advocacy and Housing Clinics, supervised by J.L. Pottenger, Jr., Alex Knopp, and Shelley Geballe. The first of the proposals for the 2018 session is a bill (House Bill 5045), introduced by Governor Malloy, reinforces existing obligations requiring that all towns allow for a diversity of housing, including affordable and multifamily units. Towns that allow for such housing in accordance with existing state law will be eligible for discretionary state funding and all towns must take concrete steps to reverse decades of intentional government segregation.
Another bill, HB 5196, would permit housing authorities to expand their areas of operation to thriving communities 30 miles from their municipal borders. Currently, housing authorities are financially penalized for promoting moves that cross racial and municipal lines and in some cases completely forbidden to do so.
The last bill, HB 5533, would counter a Trump administration civil rights rollback, which suspended critical data reporting from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grantees, like the state of Connecticut. This bill, which is independent of the work of the Fair Housing Working Group, would require the state to identify integration goals and report on data reflecting progress towards those goals. Passage of this bill is a critical step towards fair housing data transparency of the type made available by Open Communities Alliance in its publication Out of Balance: Subsidized Housing, Segregation, and Opportunity in Connecticut.
“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.”
“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.”
Furthering OCA’s 2017 policy agenda, in September, the bipartisan Fair Housing Working Group, 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.