Residents of Public Housing across Connecticut will now have more solid rights and responsibilities due to two bills passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in the recently concluded session, according to the Connecticut Housing Coalition (CHC). A third bill, which did not pass, will be adopted as an administrative policy by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) before the next session in January 2012.
The bills are:
- H.B. 6461, which gives residents of public housing the right to elect a tenant commissioner who represents them on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. The seat on the board filled by a tenant had previously been a mayoral appointment.
- S.B. 1076, which requires resident participation in proposed plans for disposition and revitalization of state-operated public housing developments. Previously, public hearings were required on the subject, but advocates say that it has been difficult to ensure consideration of residents' perspectives at these hearings. S.B. 1076 requires the housing authority, any developer undertaking renovations or redevelopment, and any prospective owner to enter into an agreement with the development’s tenant organization.
- S.B. 1075, which passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House, would have required DECD to adopt regulations to establish grievance procedures for public housing residents. Even though the bill did not pass, DECD has committed to develop and adopt regulations before the start of the next session in January 2012.
"Public housing tenants are sometimes perceived as being passive, and not invested in their homes and their communities. This absolutely turns that stereotype on its head," explained Betsy Crum, executive director of CHC. "At the beginning of the year, we met with the co-chairs of the Housing Committee to explain why these measures were important, and we sat down with last year's opponents in order to learn about their concerns. We didn't completely erase opposition, but it was mitigated, and we demonstrated to legislators that we were willing to compromise. That made a big difference."