Affordable Housing, Community Development, State News

Legislators Seek Ways to Encourage Transit Oriented Development

 

Several state lawmakers attended a policy briefing on how Connecticut can capitalize on transit and related development – including significant mixed-income housing – to revive the state’s economy and fiscal situation, attract a solid workforce (including younger professionals), boost local businesses, protect the environment and create vibrant, competitive communities. The February 29 briefing at the Legislative Office Building was convened by State Sen. Steve Cassano and Rep. Linda Gentile, with help by Capital Region Council of Governments, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Partnership for Strong Communities, Regional Plan Association, The Business Council of Fairfield County, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign. 

Legislators heard presentations from Tom Maziarz, Chief of Policy & Planning at the CT Dept. of Transportation (DOT); Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner of the CT Dept. of Economic & Community Development (DECD) and David Kooris, Vice President of Regional Plan Association (RPA).  They also heard from a panel ably moderated by Joe McGee of the Business Council of Fairfield County, consisting of the Partnership for Strong Communities’ Shelby Mertes, CT Conference of Municipalities’ Jim Finley, East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, Robert Fusari of Real Estate Service of CT, and Ryan Lynch of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Housing played a prominent role in the conversation.  Mertes noted that Connecticut’s consistently high housing costs indicate pent up market demand, which makes it likely that housing development near stations will be attract renters and buyers.  Also, it is likely that Connecticut’s high housing costs have made the state a less affordable place to live, so there is reason to believe that much of the new transit oriented housing will be attract new residents, who are also workers, customers, taxpayers and innovators.  The importance of maintaining the affordability of housing at transit oriented development sites was also stressed as, across the country, transit oriented development areas have seen housing prices rise beyond low- and middle-income households’ means.  David Kooris also noted that unless we cultivate a younger population that saves money by living affordably, babyboomers may not find buyers for their homes when they want to sell and downsize.

Other themes included:

  • The success – and remaining potential – of the HOMEConnecticut program in helping municipalities plan and zone for the kind of density and mixed-income housing that will make transit viable.
  • The need for integrated, comprehensive efforts across agencies and policy areas, as well as between levels of government.
  • Multifaceted policies should focus on “placemaking” around stations, to foster interesting communities with art, culture, restaurants, retail and other employers blended with mixed-income housing.
  • The need for some entity – inside or outside state government – to coordinate transit oriented development, by buying and selling properties and making them developer-ready, bonding for upfront infrastructure investments and offering technical assistance to municipalities.
  • Municipalities have a strong desire for transit oriented development, but they need planning assistance, infrastructure funding and a clear state regulatory framework.
 
 

Filter News By