Connecticut proposal would convert empty box stores into housing

Senate Democrats offer multifaceted approach to address shortage

Photo from iStock
Photo from iStock

Connecticut Democratic lawmakers last week proposed a multifaceted approach to tackle the housing shortage in the state, including converting empty strip malls and big box stores into housing, CT Insider reported.

The state senators who back the proposal said creating new, affordable housing is critical for the 100,000 employees the state needs, the outlet reported.

“We have to have the employees first, and then the employers come in,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said, according to the outlet.

The proposal also includes the state working with municipalities to build housing on vacant land, a plan to assist the unhoused; and rental aid for people who live in mobile-home parks.

The proposal is just one of a number of bills the legislature is expected to consider to address housing, including offering tax credits for workforce housing.

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Local zoning laws, however, are major stumbling blocks toward creating affordable housing, which the senators acknowledged. Most affordable housing in the state is clustered in cities like Waterbury, New Haven and Bridgeport.

State law gives developers the ability to go to court if their plans to build affordable housing are denied by local zoning laws. Municipalities that have 10 percent of their housing stock designated as affordable are exempt from the law, a threshold that only about 30 of the state’s 169 towns meet, CT Mirror reported.

Duff said the state could build housing on state-owned land in municipalities that drag their heels, according to CT Insider.

“There’s lots of parking lots that housing could be built on as well,” he said, according to CT Insider. “There’re park-and-ride lots where you could build housing. There are answers.”

— Ted Glanzer