New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker used his state of the city address last week to declare his hope to see New Haven surpass Bridgeport as the state’s largest city in 10 years, a vision he grounded squarely in adding significantly more housing to the 18.85-square-mile city.

“While we wish for Bridgeport’s success, I have news for you: Watch out, Bridgeport – New Haven is growing and we’re on the move!” he said according to a transcript of his remarks made Feb. 5.

The city of around 134,000 people grew at about the same just-over-3-percent pace as 149,000-perspon Bridgeport between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but would need to significantly speed that up to hit Elicker’s goal.

“I believe the first place we need to start is housing,” Elicker said. “Since 2020, when I first took office, approximately 1,900 new housing units have been built, and we’ve built and preserved approximately 900 units of affordable housing. Looking forward, there are approximately 3,500 new housing units in the pipeline, and approximately 1,400 – 40 percent of them – are affordable units.”

But that won’t be enough, he said, even when including the estimated 1,000 new homes, including at least 300 affordable units, expected to be included in the Church Street South housing development between the city’s Metro-North train station and downtown.

“Now, while we are building, we are not building enough or fast enough,” he said. “To make this happen, we need new housing for all kinds of personal budgets: deeply affordable housing, affordable housing, and market rate housing too.”

When it came to advancing housing production Elicker touted his administration’s proposed accessory dwelling unit ordinance. He also name-checked his administration’s inclusionary zoning law, passed in 2022, requires new downtown rental buildings with 10 or more units to set aside 10 percent of units for people making 50 percent of area median income and another 5 percent for tenants with federal Section 8 rental vouchers, with smaller shares for outlying areas. In exchange, developers get to access various incentives and perks like floor area ratio bonuses and the removal of parking minimums.

But he also pledged to “explore and advance ways that we can lift existing barriers in the city’s zoning law to facilitate the responsible growth and creation of new housing as well,” as well as hire “significantly” more city inspectors to police substandard apartments and make sure all landlords get timely inspections.