July 13, 2017
The Hon. Dannel P. Malloy, Governor
The Hon. Joe Aresimowicz, Speaker of the House
The Hon. Martin M. Looney, Senate Democrat President Pro Tempore
The Hon. Len Fasano, Senate Republican Leader Pro Tempore
The Hon. Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader
The Hon. Antonietta “Toni” Boucher, Chief Deputy Senate Leader
The Hon. Kevin Witkos, Deputy Senate Leader Pro Tempore
The Hon. Matthew Ritter, House Majority Leader
The Hon. Themis Klarides, House Minority Leader
The Hon. Paul Formica, Senate Co-Chair, Appropriations Committee
The Hon. Catherine Osten, Senate Co-Chair, Appropriations Committee
The Hon. Toni Walker, House Chair, Appropriations Committee
The Hon. Melissa Ziobron, Ranking Member, Appropriations Committee
The Hon. John Fonfara, Senate Co-Chair, Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee
The Hon. Scott Frantz, Senate Co-Chair, Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee
The Hon. Jason Rojas, House Chair, Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee
The Hon. Christopher Davis, Ranking Member, Finance Revenue & Bonding Committee
RE: Preserve the Community Investment Act
Dear Governor Malloy and Leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly:
The 24 organizations listed below strongly support the protection and continued funding of the Community Investment Act (CIA) program. Through a $40 surcharge on local land recordings the CIA has funded over 1,400 projects with $152 million invested, benefiting every community in the state. This investment has leveraged millions more in private and public dollars, all while preserving and reinvesting in Connecticut’s rich character. As you are aware CIA funding provides support for state land use programs for open space conservation, farmland preservation/dairy production, historic preservation and the development of affordable housing.
We understand and appreciate the enormity of the fiscal crisis you are dealing with in your efforts to close a significant budget gap for the next biennial budget. We most respectfully request that you preserve CIA funding for its intended purpose, which has provided a consistent source of dedicated funding outside of the budget, and much needed reinvestment in our state. To cut off this funding would be akin to eating our seed corn.
The CIA is a proven economic driver - providing a higher quality of life, attracting skilled workers, and leveraging private investment for Connecticut’s towns. Investments in land protection and local farm businesses have contributed to the viability of the $873 million outdoor recreation industry and the $3.5 billion agricultural industry together generating 28,000 jobs. CIA has generated over 3,000 jobs in the affordable housing and historic preservation sector. CIA support is directly responsible for saving 157 dairy farm businesses. The fact that these numbers continue to increase is a testament to the success and importance of this program.
Find below brief testimonials from each sector that benefits from the CIA:
Farmland Preservation/Dairy Production
When it comes to the value of CIA funding in preserving farmland and improving the economic viability of our farms, the data speaks for itself. While bond funds are generally used to purchase the actual development rights, CIA funds have been effectively used to make the process of protecting farmland faster and more efficient. Since the inception of CIA 12-years ago, this important funding has:
- permanently protected 116 farms. In the 12-year period prior to CIA's inception, only 46 farms were permanently protected;
- provided critical support to our dairy farmers - who control a significant amount of Connecticut's farmland - through the Dairy Sustainability Account; and
- supported the Farm Transition Grant Program as well as the Farm Viability Grant Program, together awarding more than $10 million in grants to over 400 farmers and organizations that support agriculture.
CIA dollars have funded affordable housing directly by providing “gap” financing not otherwise available and by supporting important services such as repairing the roof on a homeless shelter, replacing a boiler in a group home, or providing support services for veterans. Cuts to CIA funding will mean that the state’s ability to meet the affordable housing needs of its working families will be greatly restricted. Specific programs that have been funded through CIA include:
- the Coordinated Access Network (CAN) infrastructure which assists individuals in a coordinated and streamlined way to help them exit homelessness to housing.
- rapid rehousing efforts to prevent and end homelessness by getting families quickly out of shelters and into apartments;
- a statewide cold weather homelessness response plan to ensure shelter for all persons during our coldest winters;
- a technical assistance program to help Connecticut’s suburban and rural towns develop hundreds of units of affordable housing for seniors and those who work in the community; and
- transit-oriented housing to ensure that affordable rents are located along Connecticut’s growing transit corridors.
While Governor Malloy and the state legislature have committed significant bond funds to build affordable housing, bricks and mortar alone can’t meet the housing needs of Connecticut’s middle- and low-income residents.
Open Space Conservation
The CIA is the only consistent source of funding for the state’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA) – the state’s matching grant program for land trusts, municipalities and water companies seeking to conserve open space. The sweep of the CIA account will undermine the administration, function and viability of the OSWA program, dealing a serious blow to the land conservation community’s ability to protect land and help the state meet its statutory goal of conserving 21% of Connecticut’s lands by 2023.
Since its inception, the CIA has provided over $33 million dollars to assist in the purchase of over 32,000 acres of open space land and the improvement or development of 60 community garden/urban green projects -- investing in over 130 communities across Connecticut.
The continued cuts to CIA funds:
- immediately impacts OSWA’s Urban Green and Community Garden Program, which relies solely upon the CIA for its funds;
- jeopardizes the amount of money available for the current grant round, which received 25 application submissions (up from 16 and 17 submissions in the previous two rounds); and
- impacts DEEP’s ability to pay for three land acquisition department staff positions.
Consequences of current CIA deferral have been significant and repercussions will be long-lasting; the gaps in preservation funding, services, and programming is already evident. Impacts of the cuts to CIA include:
- termination of the Vibrant Communities Grant Program, which funded long-term preservation planning, and other core preservation grant programs at risk of suspension, placing more historic structures at risk from deferred maintenance and reinvestment;
- delayed application windows for grant programs that have continued during this period due to low fund balances in CIA agency accounts.
- inability to initiate a new statewide historic resource survey effort, which is critical to positioning properties for redevelopment and reinvestment by homeowners and developers alike, and protecting community character; and
- missed opportunities to reinvest in Connecticut’s downtowns. CT Main Street Center’s recent analysis shows there is 187 million square feet of vacant and underutilized space in our historic downtowns which, when fully developed, can produce 88,000 units of housing of which 17,600 or more could be affordable, 20,000 new businesses and over $1 billion in new annual sales and income tax to the state.
Sweeping CIA funds to solve a budget deficit is the epitome of penny-wise and pound-foolish. Using CIA funds to plug our ongoing budget deficits does not solve the problem; it only delays it at best. The initiatives supported by CIA bolster our infrastructure of place – pristine open spaces, vibrant historic town centers, working farms and housing choices for everyone. With these assets, working together, we can build a nationally competitive, sustainable economy in Connecticut – it’s time for us to become a national force to be reckoned with.
We the undersigned sincerely appreciate your consideration of our request to fully fund the Community Investment Act in the biennial budget.
(In alphabetical order by organization)
Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions
Connecticut Audubon Society
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
Connecticut Council of Small Towns
Connecticut Farm Bureau Association
Connecticut Farmland Trust
Connecticut Forest & Park Association
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
Connecticut Housing Coalition