ISSUES

Homes Guarantee 

To afford a modest two bedroom apartment, a worker in Connecticut needs to make $25.40 an hour — almost two and half times the state’s minimum wage. 256,900 people in Connecticut pay over half of their income to housing. The low-income housing stock in CT has been decreasing faster than residents are climbing out of poverty. The lack of affordable housing also contributes heavily to homelessness in Connecticut. Over 8,000 people are homeless in CT, including at least 5,000 homeless youth, a disproportionate number of whom are LGBTQ+. Homeless people are caught in a vicious cycle of criminalization, which further entrenches their poverty. COVID-19 has only heightened the affordability crisis. According to state data, 140,000 renters are at risk of eviction due to COVID-19. 75% of those renters are Black or hispanic. 

 

Decades of racist policy have created racialized residential segregation in CT. Community resistance to affordable housing development is as active as ever. Wealthy, white, suburban communities use exclusionary practices, like minimum lot sizes, single-family zoning and purposefully slow land-use approval processes to fight affordable housing developments. These efforts are generally backed by racially coded claims that the developments will harm neighborhood character and bring crime.

 

All of these issues are rooted in the private market’s profit-driven and exclusionary provision of housing. Public housing, although far from perfect, was once a significant source of permanently affordable, off the market housing. However, since the 1970s, funding for public housing construction and maintenance has been slashed. Almost all federal and state low-income housing programs now rely on the private sector. From the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Section 8 Vouchers to the state-level Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), subsidies for developers and landlords are the primary strategy for building affordable housing. Vouchers and subsidies are ineffective at creating permanently affordable housing and, as a CTMirror investigation revealed earlier this year, are also ineffective at combating segregation.

 

Justin believes that we cannot rely on the private market to provide housing. Private developers and landlords will always be invested in turning a profit, not providing homes. Unfortunately, our capacity to pay for housing is unequal, while the need for a place to live is universal. 

 

To secure decent, convenient housing for every resident, regardless of wealth or identity, Connecticut needs a homes guarantee.
 

Justin supports: 

1. The large-scale construction of mixed-income, zero-carbon social housing. 

  • Justin believes that in order to tackle Connecticut’s housing crisis, we need to build a system which provides housing based on its value as a living space, rather than as an investment. Mixed-income social housing is permanently affordable, off-the-market housing which helps accomplish this goal.

  • There are numerous examples of successful social housing models (which includes government funded housing cooperatives), from Vienna to Singapore to Finland. Rents in these units are low and housing quality is good.

  • Social housing is mixed-income, which is the key to its fiscal stability. Mixed-income units extract a range of rents (rather than just rents from very poor tenants) and combat the concentrated residential poverty, which is prevalent in traditional public housing. Rents will still be well below the housing burden threshold for all residents. If designed correctly, the state will mostly be accountable for grants or low-income loans for construction, capital improvements and initial start-up costs. In the long-run, mixed-income social housing can be revenue-neutral, and is therefore a far more sustainable model of housing than traditional public housing.

  • A robust social housing program functions as a public option, and creates downward pressure on private market rents. Even without rent control, a large enough social housing sector can create an effective cap on market rents.

  • Housing is meant to be lived in, so Justin believes social housing should be attractive. Public housing has traditionally been drab and built to grotesque brutalist standards. Connecticut’s social housing will have community gardens, unique architecture and community space.

  • Justin believes in building units specifically for Permanently Supportive Housing (PSH) which is committed to housing the homeless, people struggling with addiction, elderly, LGBTQ+ youth and other groups often shut out of the private housing market. 

  • Justin will oppose all attempts to privatize existing public housing, whether through federal initiatives like HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) or state initiatives. Justin also opposes any austerity cuts to existing low-income housing programs.

 

2. Conversion of private housing into social housing or community-controlled housing

  • Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and housing co-ops allow communities to hold land and housing under common ownership for the purpose of keeping rents low and protecting against speculation. You can learn more about CLTs and co-ops here and here

  • These models ensure that housing is valued as a living space, not as an investment. In places like Burlington, VT, CLTs have been incredibly effective at keeping rents consistently low and protecting communities from private market speculation.

  • Justin believes in providing funding and technical support for communities who want to develop CLTs or Housing Co-ops. 

  • Justin supports a “right of first purchase,” to allow city housing authorities, tenants or a combination of the two the first opportunity to purchase private buildings when they go up for sale, and convert to social housing, CLTs or co-ops. Justin also believes homeowners should have the “right to sell” their distressed property to the municipal housing authority and become social housing tenants. 

  • The “right to sell” and “right to purchase” are particularly important in times of extreme crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Justin supports enabling legislation for local rent control ordinances.

 

3. Creating a public bank to fund the construction of social housing

  • Private finance, like private developers and private landlords, will always require that a development be profitable before investing. There is no incentive for a bank to sponsor an affordable development that won’t make money, especially when they could finance a hugely profitable luxury development. Government subsidies are the primary reason the private market produces any amount of affordable housing.

  • The alternative to short-term profiteering is a public bank, which puts the public good ahead of any profit motive. 

    • Public banks can offer low-cost loans to municipalities for the construction and maintenance of social housing. The public bank’s lack of a profit motive and low-to-zero interest rates can lower costs dramatically. 

    • Public banking can also be useful for funding public transportation, student loans and clean energy programs.

  • Justin believes in creating a social housing bank which will be democratically accountable, and include tenants and tenant advocates on its board of directors.

  • While this bank can and should be funded by general fund appropriations, Justin also believes in creating a dedicated funding stream by levying new taxes on speculation, potentially including: taxing investors at point-of-sale who buy homes, sit on them, and then sell them at a profit without making capital improvements; taxing multi-unit or non-owner-occupied housing when sold within 5 years of purchase at a profit; taxing housing investors at the point of purchase who do not reside, or whose headquarters are not located, within Connecticut.

 

4. Protecting vulnerable renters during COVID-19

  • COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown period has destabilized the lives of hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents. In particular, many people’s ability to pay rent has been compromised. Recent data suggests that 140,000 renters are unable to pay their rent. 75% of these renters are Black or hispanic. Although Connecticut has put in place minor protections, like the eviction moratorium, Justin knows we need to do more.

  • Justin supports extending the eviction moratorium until the end of the pandemic, cancelling rent statewide and granting municipal housing agencies the right of first refusal to buy distressed properties and convert them to community controlled social housing.

  • Justin believes that taxing housing market speculation, as described in section three, will help prevent a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis, when private equity vultures and speculators tore communities apart in the pursuit of speculative profit. 

  • In the long run, Justin understands that a homes guarantee — driven by a turn away from the private market and towards social housing and community-controlled housing — is the only way to ensure a crisis like this does not repeat itself. 

 

5. Preempting exclusionary zoning laws which segregate wealthy towns

  • The state has sat by idly for far too long as wealthy towns have used exclusionary practices like single-family zoning and minimum lot sizes to shut out poor, often black and hispanic residents. As the CTMirror and ProPublica reported earlier this year, these exclusionary zoning practices have prevented affordable housing from being built in places like Westport and Greenwich.

  • Justin believes in preempting these exclusionary local ordinances to allow for affordable housing development, including mixed-income social housing.

  • Public transportation must also be expanded so that low-income residents can feasibly live in integrated spaces. Justin discusses this further in his transportation platform.

 

6. Ratifying a Tenants Bill of Rights and improving on the 2013 Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights

  • Tenants and homeless individuals are disempowered by the housing system. Tenants are subject to unjust evictions, poor living conditions and unfair rent increases, often without legal recourse. Homeless individuals are subject to the criminalization of their very existence, which throws them into cycles of incarceration and poverty. 

  • Justin believes that tenants deserve a robust and explicit set of legal rights. This bill of rights should be constructed by tenants, for tenants. Potential provisions include: 

    • right to counsel in housing court; 

    • just cause eviction protections; 

    • right to first purchase; 

    • right to sell your house to the municipality and remain as a social housing tenant;

    • prohibit landlords from refusing tenants based on race, income, past evictions, criminal record, sexual orientation, immigration status, etc; 

    • prohibit retaliation against tenants who report violations; 

    • establish an explicit right for tenants unions to form and bargain with landlords;

    • the right to affordable housing.

  • These rights will also apply to existing public housing and social housing. Public housing complexes should transition to democratic rule by tenant unions.

  • In 2013, Governor Malloy signed into law a Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights. While this law is a good starting point, Justin believes it needs to be expanded upon to fully decriminalize homelessness and ensure dignity for all CT residents. Homeless individuals should be actively included in the formulation of these new laws.

 

7. Supporting a humane “Housing First” policy for dealing with homelessness

  • Let’s be clear: Justin believes that every person deserves a stable, safe home. One of the first steps in making that belief a reality is eliminating homelessness in Connecticut by providing unconditional housing to all homeless residents.

  • Cities across the country and world have successfully slashed homeless rates by unconditionally providing housing, rather than means-testing services and criminalizing homelessness.

  • Justin supports social housing that includes Permanently Supportive Housing units (PSHs) for homeless people, the elderly and those struggling with addiction. 

  • This policy will also include mental health support and integrated social services, including for LGBTQ+ youth, who face extremely high rates of homelessness.

  • Justin also believes in fighting all laws which discriminate within temporary housing, like homeless shelters. This includes the Trump administration’s recent attempt to allow federally funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender individuals.

 

8. Utilizing existing programs to decommodify pockets of housing

  • In addition to fighting for a public housing bank and additional social housing programs, Justin believes we can begin the Connecticut Homes Guarantee by reforming existing housing programs. 

  • Justin believes we should investigate repurposing funds from the Rental Assistance Program, Housing Trust Fund, FLEX, HOME and other partial private market housing subsidies, or potentially from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, to put toward social housing.

  • Justin believes we should reform rules for distribution of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which is the federal government’s main tool for subsidizing construction of “affordable” housing. We can change the rules of distribution (much like how right-wing legislatures change the rules of distribution for programs like Medicaid) to directly subsidize the construction of municipally owned social housing or CLTs and housing co-ops. Similar reforms can be made to the state’s Housing Tax Credit Contribution (HTCC) program.

 

9. Investing in fixing the state’s long-running housing quality issues

  • A safe and healthy home is a major determinant of health and child development. Unfortunately, Connecticut has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation. As a result, our homes and apartments tend to contain more health hazards like lead, mold and asbestos, leading to life-long ailments like asthma.

  • These problems are particularly pronounced in low-income, urban, black and brown communities. Because housing-related public health issues are concentrated in low-income communities, they also create a drag on our publicly funded healthcare system. According to state data, at least half of asthma related costs (which total over $100 million a year) are covered by public funds.

  • Justin believes that any plan to tackle Connecticut’s housing crisis must include funding for environmentally friendly housing retrofits which reduce public health hazards and improve quality of life for all Connecticut residents.

 

10. Decarbonizing housing across the state

  • Housing is intimately tied to our carbon footprint. Sprawling suburbs create a high demand for car travel, and giant inefficient homes create a high demand for energy. Justin believes that we have to decarbonize housing in order to stave off climate change.

  • Justin believes new, mixed-income social housing should be energy efficient, transit-oriented, powered by renewable energy and ultimately, zero-carbon. Justin supports the expansion and maintenance of the energy efficiency fund, and opposes the recent cuts to energy efficiency funds. 

  • Justin also supports enabling legislation for community solar and Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). Both of these models will cut costs for residents, empower residents and introduce more renewable energy to the state.

  • In line with the goals of a Green New Deal, a program to improve housing quality (as discussed in section nine) and decarbonize housing would create thousands of good-paying, stable jobs. Justin believes these programs can be a crucial element of a broader “Green Stimulus” package in response to the economic disaster of COVID-19.

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Approved by Justin Farmer.

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4 Prospect Ct
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