A statewide civil rights and housing advocacy group filed suit against the New Haven suburb of Woodbridge yesterday, saying the town’s zoning violates state zoning law and the federal Fair Housing Act.
The Hartford-based Open Communities Alliance and two Woodbridge residents – Sally Connolly and Cary Gross – who say they are harmed by the lack of racial and economic diversity in their town filed the lawsuit, which claims the lack of land zoned for multifamily housing keeps out Black and Latino families and anyone relying on government subsidies to help pay their rent.
The Open Communities Alliance’s affordable housing development trust is also a plaintiff, stemming from an option to purchase property in Woodbridge to build a multifamily project that includes affordable housing.
Woodbridge zoning prohibits multifamily developments on over 98 percent of the town’s parcels and requires a special exemption process for the remaining area for any type of multifamily housing. Much of the town does not have its own sewer service, a sticking point in a heated local debate when the Open Communities Alliance and local residents asked for zoning reforms in recent years.
The plaintiffs are asking for an overhaul Woodbridge’s zoning code and steps to reduce racial and economic segregation in town.
“For decades, Woodbridge’s zoning has erected unjustifiable barriers preventing lower and moderate income families, who are disproportionately families of color, from moving to town. Woodbridge’s unduly restrictive zoning fails to address the stark regional need for affordable housing, disparately harms Black and Latino households, and deepens economic and racial segregation in the area,” Erin Boggs, executive director of the Open Communities Alliance, said in a statement.
The plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by attorneys from WilmerHale, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a Yale Law School professor and her students.
“Zoning regulations that drive up housing prices leave many households rent-burdened, making it difficult for these households to afford other essentials such as groceries, health care, and school supplies. Such regulations contravene Connecticut law that requires all towns in Connecticut to provide equal access to housing opportunities,” WilmerHale attorney Alan Schoenfeld said in a statement.