Planning for Affordability in Connecticut: Affordable Housing Plan and Process Guidebook

This report was released in December 2020. From the Introduction / About the Report page (page 4):

The Connecticut Department of Housing, together with Regional Plan Association and partners across the state, have worked together to create this guidebook to help municipalities develop their local affordable housing plans, as required by state statute § 8-30j.

While § 8-30j requires all towns to create an affordable housing plan by spring 2022, it doesn’t specify what should be included, leaving many local communities with questions, like:

  • What exactly is an affordable housing plan and what should be included?
  • How does this plan fit in with my town’s other planning documents, like our Plan of Conservation and Development?
  • How do we create a plan for affordable housing when it can be such a hot button issue in our town?

This guidebook focuses on answering these important questions on the process for creating the plan, not just to comply with § 8-30j, but to help towns make the most of the opportunity to come together to plan for housing affordability. The high cost of housing in Connecticut is well known and commonly accepted as the tradeoff for the amenities our state offers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Connecticut can be a great place to live and provide housing options for people at all levels of income. Planning for more affordable homes is an important first step in changing the common narrative of opposition and creating space for productive community conversations around affordability.

Rather than an obstacle to be surmounted, the planning process is a chance to bring people together, connecting affordable homes to community values like equity and diversity. Through the process, local leaders and residents can build a shared understanding of how homes that meet the needs of current and future residents can improve the overall health and economic vitality of their towns by creating space for a variety of housing that meets the needs of people of different ages and incomes. This guidebook provides a framework for engaging communities in the planning process and recommendations for creating specific elements of the plan, including how to:

  • Design and carry out a community engagement and communications strategy;
  • Conduct a housing needs assessment;
  • Evaluate local land use and zoning to identify barriers to affordable housing development;
  • Understand the role of local and regional housing market conditions in financing affordable housing development;
  • Create a Community Values Statement;
  • Develop plan principles, goals, and actions; and
  • Apply best practices to implement the plan.

Although one size doesn’t fit all, the set of strategies and tools provided in this guidebook are intended to serve as a synthesized set of resources that make it easier for towns to successfully plan for more affordability.