Our Vision for the 2021 Legislative Session
February 3, 2021
by Kiley Gosselin
Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities
Even though we are in the first few days of Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session, it is already apparent that this will be a session like any other. Almost all the regular functions of Connecticut’s legislative branch are being conducted virtually – including committee hearings, constituent meetings, and voting on bills. And for housing advocates in Connecticut, the 2021 session could be the most important in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the recession that has followed it, continue to increase the need for affordable housing in our state. Thousands of people are still without a permanent home – potentially putting them at greater risk for contracting the coronavirus. And lawmakers have shown a renewed interest in taking on the exclusionary zoning policies that continue to divide and segregate our state.
Housing will be a key issue for Connecticut’s legislature in 2021, both in the budget-making process as well as in day-to-day legislative matters. In this environment, the work of housing advocates becomes even more important. The chances of real, equitable housing reform in Connecticut’s legislature increase with every call you make to your legislators, every Zoom meeting you schedule with a legislative aide, and every relationship you build in your community. With this in mind, we at the Partnership for Strong Communities are working to boost our advocacy resources for the 2021 session. Our fact sheets, action alerts, and advocacy items will be hosted on the page linked above, along with any other resources (like this guide to virtual committee meetings and public hearings) we put together during the legislative session.
We have also released legislative agendas for our HOMEConnecticut Campaign for affordable housing, as well as our Reaching Home Campaign to end homelessness. While these agendas approach Connecticut’s housing issues from different perspectives, they reflect many shared priorities. These include the need to stabilize Connecticut residents’ housing during and after COVID-19, as well as the need for racially equitable housing policy. Both the HOMEConnecticut and Reaching Home agendas include policy that actively works to undo racial inequities within Connecticut’s housing market.
The reason we put a focus on racial equity in housing is because, for too long, Connecticut’s housing policy has prioritized the wants of wealthy, exclusive, and mostly-white communities over the acute needs of communities of color. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly one in three Black households in the state spent over half of their income on rental housing. Can we truly say that families have an opportunity to succeed when half of their paycheck goes to rent?
We are committed to helping Connecticut’s residents secure an effective and equitable housing recovery from COVID-19 – but achieving this goal requires the effort of thousands of committed housing advocates. Throughout the 2021 legislative session, we will both advocate for this goal ourselves, as well as provide information and resources to help facilitate the work of other housing advocates. If you are interested in becoming an advocate for housing in Connecticut, make sure to sign up for our emails so you can get the most up-to-date information as soon as it comes out. Though we may not be able to be together in person during this session, our voices can make a difference. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a year of recovery, of fairness, and of transformative change for those who need it most.