Fairfield County suburbia is having a genteel revolt. Connecticut Democrats have proposed several bills that will require the suburbs to provide more affordable housing by allowing the state to supersede local zoning laws. This is not good public policy. Government that is closest to the people governs the best. But Fairfield County should not complain. They are getting exactly what they voted for.
Connecticut has addressed this issue in the past. In 1990 – in an effort to make Connecticut’s suburbs more diverse – the legislature passed The Affordable Housing Appeals Act (often referred to as 8-30g) giving developers the right to sue towns who rejected their proposals if the town had less than 10% affordable housing. Affordable housing is defined as when a resident needs 30% or less of his or her income to pay the rent or mortgage.
Only a minority of towns has reached this 10% threshold and Connecticut’s school system is the ninth most segregated in the country. Eighty-four percent of Blacks are in schools that are over 50% minority.
The Democrats have several bills pending. One bill (HB6611) would force towns to have a predetermined “fair share” of affordable housing available. This is dovetailed with another bill (SB172) which would implement up to a two mill tax increase on housing evaluations of more than $300,000 for towns that don’t comply. Other bills mandate the building of multi-family units on more properties (many towns only permit single family dwelling in most areas) while requiring the town’s taxpayers to pay for the required infrastructure –sewers, roads, school expansion etc. – to accommodate these dwellings. Fifty percent of these units must be within walking distance of public transportation raising concerns about parking.
Yet the revolt by suburbia is somewhat surprising, as this is exactly what they voted for. In Fairfield County, Democratic State Senator Will Haskell (Ridgefield, Wilton, parts of New Canaan, Weston and Westport) openly supported such a plan and won 58% of the vote. Democratic Senator Alex Kasser from Greenwich had a tighter race, but took 51% of the vote. Democratic Senator Patricia Billie Miller easily vanquished her Republican opponent in a special election with 60% of the vote, by winning a large percentage of Darien. Republicans also lost three Assembly seats. Sara Bronin, the wife of the Hartford Democratic mayor and head of DesegregateCT has even promised to allow multifamily dwellings next to her abode in her posh Greenwich neighborhood. (Okay, I made the last sentence up). But Fairfield County is not only Blue, it is Deep Blue.
Some may blame this on President Trump’s unpopularity, but President Trump opposed such zoning practices stating: “They [the suburban voter] don’t want to have their American dream fulfilled and then have a low-income housing process built right next to their house or in the neighborhood… That’s not part of the deal.” Biden on the other hand has pledged to expand affordable housing in suburbia. Yet Westport, who voted for Biden over Trump by 44%, is upset.
But the liberal suburbanites should not despair. Should this legislation pass, they will be able to delay the law’s implementation by hiring lawyers who find some rare earthworm species whose habitat will be destroyed by new construction, thus violating the Endangered Species Act. We will be hearing dire warnings of how multifamily housing increases the carbon footprint threatening human extinction in ten years. Lawyers, environmental consulting firms and civil engineers posing as expert witnesses will be coining money. The litigation will go on for decades. In fact, when the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Sheff versus O’Neil in 1989 that Connecticut’s schools should be desegregated, 30 years of endless litigation changed nothing.
The irony of all this is that allowing school vouchers would help minorities immediately by permitting them to go to private schools or allowing Black churches to set up their own schools. But this will never happen as two powerful factions of the Democratic Party, the teachers’ union and the Secular Left, are adamantly opposed to this.
As Winston Churchill said “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”