States considering laws to tie transportation funding to housing

May 8, 2024

A pair of bills that tie transportation funding to housing are working their way through their respective state legislatures.

Connecticut state representatives last week passed a bill that encourages towns to create transit-oriented districts that would allow more apartments near train and bus stations, while a bill in Colorado that defines “transit-oriented communities” and requires them to build affordable housing adjacent to public transportation access is currently traversing the state Senate.

Transit-oriented development has grown in popularity across the country as communities try to find ways to reduce sprawl and increase housing supply. The bills are designed to create denser, walkable communities with housing and businesses where people can easily access public transportation.

Connecticut House Bill 5390

WHAT IT DOES: Connecticut would offer towns that opt to create transit-oriented districts priority for certain state infrastructure funds. To qualify as a transit-oriented community and get priority to certain infrastructure funding, neighborhoods near public transit must allow certain types of multi-family or affordable housing as-of-right, meaning without a special hearing through the local zoning board. Qualifying housing types include smaller apartments with up to nine units, developments with 10 or more units if at least 30% of them are set aside as affordable or any developments built on government or nonprofit-owned land.


OPPONENTS SAY: If towns don’t opt in, they’ll be less likely to have access to certain state funds and say it could weaken local control.

STATUS: The bill passed the state House 89-62 with bipartisan support earlier this month. Gov. Ned Lamont has also expressed support for the bill. The bill now requires approval by the state Senate.

Colorado House Bill 1313

WHAT IT DOES: The bill requires affordable housing to be built adjacent to transit. To be affordable, the housing would be supported by public subsidies, inclusionary zoning ordinances, and deed restrictions that restrict or limit maximum rental or sale price. The bill also requires a period when only low- or moderate-income households could qualify. The measure requires housing density in these “transit-oriented” communities at about 40 units per acre. The measure applies to about 31 municipalities that are part of a metropolitan planning organization. MPOs in Colorado include: The Denver Regional Council of Governments, the North Front Range MPO, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the Pueblo Area Council of Governments and the Grand Valley MPO.

PENALTIES FOR PARTICIPATION: In the original draft, the penalty for failing to participate is the loss of state transportation funding, which for some counties is as much as 50% of the funding they have for road and bridge projects. The state could apply for court injunctions to force the local governments to participate. However, amendments were approved in late April that removed these points from consideration.

OPPONENTS SAY: Even within MPOs, some communities lack access to light rail or bus service as well as the infrastructure to meet the bill’s mandates. Local officials have said the bill’s penalty for local governments that don’t go along with the zoning mandates.

STATUS: Approved in late April 4-3 by the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee with amendments that remove non-participation penalties and potential injunctions from the bill. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Photo courtesy of the Colorado State Capitol

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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