Legislators and housing advocates convened for the fourth annual Connecticut Affordable Housing Conference on Monday and Tuesday.
The conference explores policy solutions at the state and local level.
Chelsea Ross is the director of special projects for Partnership for Stronger Communities, the company that organizes the event. She said the Partnership has worked to make housing in the state more equitable for 25 years.
“We are leaders and partners in affordable housing advocacy,” Ross said. “We envision a Connecticut where everyone has a safe, stable home that is affordable to them in an equitable community of their choice. We're here for housing justice, equity and access.”
Speakers at the conference included federal Department of Housing’s regional administrator Juana Matias, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), local legislators and more.
Matias, who oversees New England, said housing in America is in a crisis.
“It is more expensive than ever before in modern history due to the long standing gap between supply and demand of affordable homes for both renters and homeowners,” Matias said. “In our case, zoning and land-use policies aren't helping to meet our housing density needs.”
But Matias said HUD and the Biden-Harris administration are working to fix that.
According to Matias, HUD spent billions of dollars on affordable housing in the state during the last fiscal year. That included almost $700 million for public housing, with 40% of that going to Section 8 project funds.
She also said the department is committed to addressing the housing crisis equitably, with a focus on communities that have been historically segregated and shut out of affordable housing opportunities.
Blumenthal said the Senate is on board with the work that HUD is doing. He cited the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Transportation-HUD bill that was passed with broad bipartisan support (85-15) as proof.
The bill includes $70 billion in funding for HUD programs, including $31.7 billion for tenant-based rental assistance — an increase of $1.5 billion.
But he warned that House Republicans do not feel the same way.
“Even though it passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the House is another story,” Blumenthal said. “In fact, the House actually wants to cut these programs, that is the Republican fringe right-wing in the House, which wants to cut appropriations for these programs.”
Sen. Murphy said housing has become the issue his office hears about the most.
“That's just a sign of how important this issue is to the future of Connecticut,” Murphy said. “So I'm going to step up my efforts at the federal level to try to get more federal funding, more tax credits, better policy. But you know, the rubber really hits the road at the state level.”
He said he wants to work with state legislators to get more money for the sector and change local regulations that make it hard to build affordable housing.