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Face the Facts: What Can be Done to Make Housing More Affordable in Conn.

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Sen. Gary Winfield (D- New Haven) explains why he’s proposing to cap rent increases, and what else the state can do to make housing more affordable.

Mike Hydeck: Welcome back. According to Governor Lamont during his State of the State address, a key to filling the tens of thousands of jobs we have open in Connecticut right now is having a place for all of those workers to live. We need teachers and police officers and manufacturing techs and restaurant employees to fill these jobs. And with the skyrocketing housing prices, many cities are hitting a critical point now and finding housing is very difficult. Joining me now is State Senator Gary Winfield from New Haven. He filed a bill to address some of these housing concerns. Senator Winfield, it's been quite a while. Welcome back to Face the Facts.

Gary Winfield: Thank you for having me. Happy to be back.

Mike Hydeck: So according to a Connecticut Mirror report, after the eviction moratorium lifted last summer, Connecticut saw about 2,000 more evictions than an average year. First, why do you think that happened? And what do we do about it?

Gary Winfield: I think people live very close to the edge. And we've seen various reasons, one my bill would address, which is the increase in rent. What we know is that we've seen a 9% increase for our $100 amount, 9% increase on households, sorry, $100 increase in rent. And so what we're trying to do is figure out how we address these things.

Mike Hydeck: So as far as your bill, your bill would put a cap on rents and ban no cause evictions. How do you both protect the tenant and not unfairly impact landlords who are small business owners here in Connecticut?

Gary Winfield: Right. And I think that's something that we should think heavily about, as we imagine the bill and a lot of this will come out of the public hearing. But as we imagined the bill, there is a cap on the rent each year. There would be exceptions to that, right. So if there's a reval, or something of that nature, you have to take those things into account. So our mission is not to protect the tenant and leave the landlord with no recourse. But you know, the landlords are going to come to the committee, they're going to talk about what their perspective is. And we're going to have a conversation. And what that cap is and how far we go with the cap will, as everything else we do in the legislature, probably adjust over time.

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Mike Hydeck: So one of the other things we learned this week, the state has something called an Eviction Prevention Fund. What is that? And how is it funded?

Gary Winfield: So if you're asking me about the Eviction Prevention Fund and the funding source for it, I'm not, I don't know, right off the top of my head, I'd have to look at that. But what it seeks to do is help those who are unfortunately, in the process of being evicted protect their rights, which is what this bill seeks to do, right? What we what we say is those who are over 62 have some protections. They're complaining about maintenance, like many of the constituents that I have engaged with are, they don't get evicted for no discernible reason other than that the landlord is upset with them. We're looking to extend that to renters generally. This bill, hopefully is received as an attempt to have a conversation that we need to have. And the reality is, if we don't have the conversation with this bill and find a place where we can come together, we're going to have this conversation anyway because you have people who've had their rent increased in ways that are just unsustainable.

Mike Hydeck: Can you think about addressing the bigger picture at large. Each city in town is supposed to file an affordable housing plan with the state every five years. Critics say though that law has no teeth and cities and towns aren't doing it. What are your thoughts on that?

Gary Winfield: I would say that the critics are probably correct. You know, the legislature, with all good intention, often will come up with a piece of legislation. And what we discover is that it either has not been implemented, or the implementation of that piece of legislation hasn't gone how we would like it to go.. So what I think the responsibility of the legislature, particularly given the crisis that we have, is to take a second look at what we have on the books and figure out what the course of action it makes the law do what we intended it to do.

Mike Hydeck: In a minute, do you think the state should require developers to put a percentage of affordable housing in a major housing project and hold them to that?

Gary Winfield: I've always held the position that that is what we should do. Clearly, I have some colleagues who, who don't believe that. But again, all of these are attempts at a solution to the problem. I think, at the end of the day, what we know is whether you are there yet or not, we will all get there if this crisis grows, right? So let's be proactive, think about what we can do. Have the public hearing, allow people to voice their opinion, whether they're for or against it. And what I hope people do when they come to the hearing is not to say they're against it, but talk about, is there a way that we can come closer together? So that if we do pass something, both the landlord and the tenant are protected as much as possible.

Mike Hydeck: Senator Gary Winfield, we have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us on Face the Facts. We look forward to exploring this again with you.

Gary Winfield: Thank you for having me.

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