Fair Share would end zoning’s stranglehold on the Connecticut economy

Richard Freedman | CT Viewpoints

For decades, Connecticut has suffered from anemic economic growth and its attendant fiscal problems.  The causes, it is said, are various: an aging population, lack of an anchor city, outmigration to other states and, of course, over-regulation.  For the last decade we’ve had a live experiment as to the causes and, it turns out, over-regulation is the prime suspect.  However, the culprit is one specific type of regulation:  Zoning.

...Housing gets built where there is demand and zoning that enables its construction at scale. It doesn’t get built, regardless of demand, where the zoning makes it impossible or nearly impossible to build. There is intense demand to live in our affluent suburbs – just look at their house prices – but the housing stock barely budged in them. In some, it even declined. Flat supply is the telltale sign that zoning in most Connecticut towns is suppressing housing creation, notwithstanding the well-publicized construction of a project here or there.

Stamford, where I live and work, demonstrates the impact of more people living in more housing. We added 6,500 housing units and 13,000 people from 2010 to 2020, a big chunk of all growth statewide. We have a more vibrant downtown, more services like new restaurants and food markets, and a larger labor pool for area business.

Not coincidentally, nearly all of the state’s new large employers have chosen to locate in Stamford. Furthermore, this growth has had a positive fiscal impact, something I know well the as chair of our Board of Finance since 2015. Like the state, Stamford has had sharply rising pension obligations, and we were able to increase pension funding while holding tax increases down because, unlike the state, we could spread the impact across more people occupying more taxable real estate.

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