Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



June 28, 2021

Sen. Osten, Democrats Fight To Protect Tax Credits For Affordable Housing In Southeastern Connecticut

A coalition of Democratic state legislators from eastern Connecticut have won a one-month delay and review of a proposed change by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority to its new rules governing how the state distributes millions of dollars in tax credits for affordable housing development – a rules change that Democrats say could hurt eastern Connecticut.

The 10 Democratic legislators, led by state Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), wrote the CHFA Board of Directors on Thursday and successfully lobbied for a delay in the implementation of CHFA’s new rules for determining the so-called ‘opportunity score’ for a particular town or region.

The CHFA has long emphasized opportunity score when deciding what affordable housing projects will receive state tax credits, thereby lowering the cost for builders. Cities and towns are graded according to the degree of ‘opportunity’ in the surrounding community, usually defined as a town’s school rating, its poverty rate, its proximity to community colleges, and its jobs-to-population ratio. A high opportunity score is desirable, and a low opportunity score makes it virtually impossible to receive state grants for affordable housing construction.

Under the proposed new CHFA scoring system, only 1% of the regions in Tolland, Windham and New London Counties qualify as “high” opportunity areas, compared to a 20% statewide average.

“We believe this rule change would adversely affect the ability of any such projects to move forward in Eastern Connecticut. This adjustment would significantly change how a project’s ‘opportunity score’ is calculated and this could put the funding of many projects in jeopardy making it nearly impossible to develop affordable housing,” the eastern Connecticut Democratic delegation wrote. “We respectfully request that you postpone the implementation of this rule change and at a minimum grandfather in previously submitted projects. We ask that we be given time to evaluate the true impact of this change so Eastern Connecticut is not put at a significant disadvantage where this funding is concerned.”

The letter was signed by Democratic state Senators Osten, Norm Needleman and Mae Flexer, and by Democratic state Representatives Christine Conley, Brian Smith, Emmett Riley, Kevin Ryan, Anthony Nolan, Joe de la Cruz, and Susan Johnson.

“There’s no doubt about the need for more affordable housing in Connecticut, and there’s no doubt that our construction industry needs the jobs. What there is doubt about is the logic and the reasoning behind CHFA’s decision to change horses in midstream and make it more difficult for people and builders in eastern Connecticut to get their foot in the door of an affordable place to live,” Sen. Osten said. “My hope is that over the next month, eastern Connecticut legislators and CHFA officials can meet and come to a new understanding about not only the definition of opportunity, but about the basic need for more affordable housing all across the state.”