The important distinction between political goals and rights


For the editor:

In recent weeks there has been fierce debate over the provisions of HB 5429 – a bill that would mandate a full green light for builders to pack and stack homes at a minimum of fifteen housing units per acre within the 500 acres within a half-mile radius of a rail or bus station with only ten percent of these units set aside for affordable housing. It’s about forced density, not about affordable housing.

Opposition to the legislation is bipartisan and based on serious concerns that the bill creates a centrally planned approach that makes little sense for the needs and aspirations of our unique Connecticut cities. The bill, in effect, removes local control over zoning and land use by approving apartment complexes – without public hearings – in some of our cities’ most charming historic areas, many of which have infrastructure ageing, limited parking and environmental proximity to coastal waters.

In an exchange that made the rounds of the statewide press, I asked a young HB 5429 supporter at the public hearing if he believed housing was a “right.” He said yes. My rebuttal made headlines, and Hearst’s editorial board called my question “completely irrelevant.” With all due respect, on the contrary, my question goes to the heart of the matter.

It is exactly the activists’ belief that “housing is a right” that motivates their support for bills like HB 5429 that give developers wide latitude to build what these activists believe they and theirs are. others are entitled. Because housing is something that requires the labor of others to build, the underlying affirmation of the belief that “housing is a right” is that society can force people in the housing sector – and taxpayers – to provide housing to those who need it, want it, or ask for it. Failure to do so would be a violation of their rights.

Indeed, there is also a bill before the legislature at this time, SB168, a law establishing a right to housing, which details: (1) a right to protection from housing loss and legal assistance in the event of eviction and problem-solving advice; (2) a right to secure housing that meets basic needs with necessary services and infrastructure; (3) a right to housing affordability and housing assistance programs that also maintain, repair and rehabilitate low-cost housing; (4) a right to relocation assistance for those who have become homeless in affordable long-term permanent housing; and finally, (5) a right to recognition of special circumstances that present barriers to finding affordable housing, “whether because of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, unemployment, criminal record, deportation history…” Please read the language of this bill for you.

Quality affordable housing in safe neighborhoods with jobs nearby is an important public policy goal, but there is a difference between that and a right. Rights, properly crafted, are synonymous with freedoms that are inalienable and given by our Creator. We each have an equal right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and more, such as the right to speak freely what we think and the right to worship God as we wish.

In contrast, housing is the result of countless voluntary exchanges shaped by the real economy of what the National Association of Home Builders’ senior vice president for housing economics and policy, Dr. Robert Dietz, calls the Five L’s, as in Labor, Lots to build. on, Lumber and Materials, Laws and Regulations, and Loan Availability.

Bypassing this reality and dictating what housing construction should look like under the pretext that there is a “right” to housing results in policies that exacerbate existing political problems, such as the lack of affordable housing, while creating new ones, such as possible regular major floods.

For families, moving to less dense the cities of denser cities is not just a temporary stopover, but often the end goal. Laws like HB 5429 would suppress their dream under the false pretense that high housing costs are entirely due to the low supply of housing instead of prices that reflect the high costs of labor, land, lumber, laws and loans.

Cities should not be forced by activists to increase their housing density and change their historical identity without their consent. Many less dense areas are intentionally less dense because they provide more space to raise families, parent-involving school systems, a tangible sense of place, increased safety with less congestion, and more outdoor activities. healthy. The state legislature has no business potentially depriving these localities of such attributes.

It sounds good to say things like “housing is a right” because we all want our neighbors to have shelter. Still fundamentally, it is not a “right” because it is not inalienable or from our Creator, but rather other people must provide it.

No one should believe that builders are suddenly virtuous angels. Behind DesegregateCT and paying for lobbyists in Hartford is the Regional Plan Association, a New York-based nonprofit whose board members are representatives from major corporations like RXR, Durst Organization and Menlo Realty Ventures. Under HB 5429 with only 10% affordable units and 90% market priced units, builders are no doubt thrilled with the approval they will enjoy to build in coastal Connecticut towns without having to listen to local voices.

The truth is that bills like HB 5429 and SB168 will only exacerbate the main problem facing our state. In fact, there’s one thing both proponents and detractors agree on: the cost of living in Connecticut is way too high and out of control. And that is why I will continue to join Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature in opposing such reckless and harmful proposals.

Please join a ‘Support Local Control’ zoning rally at Springdale Station, 865 Hope Street, Stamford on Saturday, April 2, 2-3 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Kimberly Fiorello is the Republican State Representative for the 149th District, including Greenwich and Stamford


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