Greenwich United Way hosted a zoom panel Thursday on a topic that has made headlines lately – affordable housing.
Sean Ghio, Policy Director at Partnership for Strong Communities, a Hartford-based organization seeking to end Connecticut homelessness and create affordable housing, was led by Margarita Alban, Chair of Greenwich P&Z, and city planner Katie DeLuca supported.
On its website, Ghios Organization a Housing profile for every city in Connecticut.
Sean Ghio of the Hartford-based Partnership for Strong Communities said that when tenants spend less than 30% of household income on residential use it is considered affordable.
Households that spend more than 1/3 of their income on residential purposes are considered to be “burdened”.
Those who spend more than half their income on housing are "heavily costly".
In Connecticut, nearly half of tenant households spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
A quarter of this group – around 100,000 households – spends more than half of their income on residential purposes.
"These people are overwhelmingly almost entirely extremely low-income households," said Ghio. "If we talk about who some of these people are – black African American households, 31% of those households spend more than half their income on rent and utilities."
Ghio quoted the ALICE (Asset L.imitated, Iincome C.burdened, E.According to reports, 29% of ALICE households in Greenwich do not earn enough to meet basic household budget requirements.
You can drill down from the number of single family homes (Greenwich has 15,473 or 63.8%) to the number of mobile homes (54).
The profile also indicates the number of affordable housing units set by the state. Greenwich has 1,371 units or 5.3% of the 10% required under 8-30g, the state Affordable Housing Act. Non-compliant cities lose their zone control when a multi-family development is proposed that includes affordable units, with the rare exception of health and safety.
Under 8-30g, a developer in a city that has not reached 10% can build apartment buildings with some of the affordable units and be exempt from local zoning regulations.
Though 8 to 30 grams have been on the books since the late 1980s, Greenwich has seen a recent boost to new applications and residents have been largely unsuccessful in public hearings.
There are 31 communities in Connecticut that have achieved the required 10% – the closest being Stamford with 15.5% affordability.
And while the forum didn't focus on 8-30g, it found that Greenwich would have to add around 1,200 units to meet state requirements.
None of this can be new to Greenwich residents.
What's new is that there may be increased consequences for non-compliance. And a lack of compliance could soon cost Greenwich real estate owners in several ways.
Senate Act 172 would introduce a nationwide tax on commercial and residential property to encourage affordable housing in the range of 8-30g. The task has a “sliding scale” that shows how far a city is from the required 10%.
Meanwhile, Senate Act 171, a bill proposed by Senator Martin Looney, known as a "mansion tax," targets homes valued at more than $ 430,000. Greenwich would be hard hit as the majority of single family homes are mansions by that definition.
The owner of a $ 1 million home would pay an additional $ 400 per year. The proposal would redistribute the money to cities and towns that are struggling.
On a separate note, First Selectman's proposed budget this week would result in a $ 203 increase in property tax on a $ 1 million home.
A coalition called DeSegregate CT from Hartford has spoken out in favor of a platform on which the municipalities cede control of the local zones to the state.
DeSegregate CT, founded by Sara Bronin, architect, attorney, law professor, former chair of Hartford P&Z and wife of Hartford Mayor, spoke about her group's desire to have the construction of 2 to 4 families "by law" design homes within 0.5 miles of train stations while eliminating parking requirements.
Greenwich has four train stations. Let that sink in.
DeSegregate CT's assumption is that the creation of more apartment buildings would "by law" lead to more affordable housing and thus reduce segregation.
Given Greenwich's insatiable appetite for luxury apartment buildings, this could lead to an increase in density, traffic and stress on infrastructure including schools, sewers and roads.
A third bill was introduced Friday, January 29th.
DeSegregate CT's platform was the basis for SB 804, a law on inclusion in certain communities.
The bill was proposed by Senator Saud Anwar, a Democrat who represents the 3rd District, which includes the towns of East Hartford, South Windsor, East Windsor and Ellington.
A fourth calculation, however, has to do with allowing greater density in the vicinity of train stations. Senator Martin Looney suggested SB 554Under a law on communal zoning and public transport, cities would have to allow more housing density within half a mile of a public transport station than the city otherwise allows.
Mr. Ghio stated that Connecticut maintains a list of “affordable” housing that includes public housing and restricted deed housing, as well as both a Section 8 voucher and RAPs (Rental Assistance Program) to help both low-income families to afford housing in the US private market. Homeowners with below-the-market mortgages on a Connecticut Housing Finance Authority single-family home are also among the 10% Affordable requirements.
What is not on the list are apartments that are considered affordable with a lowercase "a".
In Greenwich, NOAH, or naturally occurring affordable housing, includes units that private schools offer teachers, units that country clubs offer workers, and housing that Greenwich Hospital offers employees.
Mr Ghio said Greenwich was "affordable" at 5.3% in a slightly more enviable position than Darien at just 3.5% or New Canaan at just 2.9%.
"Your numbers are actually higher than many of your neighbors," he said.
Mr. Ghio also spoke about the aging housing stock across the state.
"Housing is very old all over the state," he said. "That means higher incomes, and middle-income people compete for lower-quality housing."
Ghio said that, according to the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC), 5,000 affordable housing units are receiving federal grants that are at risk of running out of stock, either through expiring subsidies, action restrictions, or such poor terms they have won. & # 39; t remain liveable.
"At Greenwich, PAHRC says you have 50 units in this position," he said.
Highlighting the variety of apartments
Although Greenwich was only floating 5% affordable housing, the city's P&Z director Katie DeLuca said the city has worked in the past to achieve diversity in housing.
“We had zoning regulations for additional homes and options back in the 1980s… such as planned senior homes like Hill House on Riverside Ave. We have planned residential areas. That's how we got Lyon Farm and Greenwich Gables. "
"We have nearly 3,000 condos," she added. "We're Condo Strong."
DeLuca said there are other ways to create units than would otherwise not be allowed, including protection zones where land is in turn reserved for additional units. The option of a historical overlay also offers incentives for the preservation of historical houses.
“We're trying to keep a small town. We don't want to be called a city. We don't want a lot of density. Nevertheless we are "full". We don't have a lot of free land. We're not like Westport or Darien, who can do a lot of interesting things to attract affordable housing. "
"And we're certainly not like Stamford or Port Chester (NY) who want density."
DeLuca said the city had made it a priority since the 1980s to try to create "moderate incomes" or "housing for workers".
To qualify for placement in Greenwich, a resident cannot earn more than $ 98,000 per year, versus a maximum income of $ 55,000 to qualify for an affordable unit.
Katie DeLuca Greenwich Planning & Zoning Director
According to DeLuca, 60% of the city's staff and 60% of the education committee staff live outside the community.
She said the starting salary for a teacher is $ 56,000, a cop is $ 79,000, and a firefighter is $ 60,000.
She noted that the salary cap is $ 55,832 to qualify for an affordable unit.
"What do you do if our starting salaries for employees go beyond that?" She asked.
"We have set our own income limit for (labor) housing and it is based on the salary of the average city worker," she said. “We made a big change to the rules for (workers housing) 5 to 6 years ago. We saw an influx of proposals and approved 20 units (not yet built). So you can see that the change in regulations worked. "
In Greenwich, a moderate income / labor 1BR unit rents for $ 1,649 a month, while according to State Affordable guidelines it would cost $ 1,386.
Alban acknowledged that Greenwich cannot meet its existing needs within the community and that most of the affordable housing available is provided by the housing authority.
"We feel that affordable housing with smaller units should be more blended into the community so that it is seamless," she said.
Alban spoke about balancing the need for additional affordable housing with infrastructure requirements, including public schools, sewers and the road network.
"To meet government requirements, we would need to add another 1,200 affordable housing units," she said.
"The overall plan is to accept some level of density as we need to have our two main builders of affordable housing – the housing authority and the private sector," Alban said.
"It's difficult because of the cost of our real estate. Our Affordable Housing Task Force is working with developers and lawyers. The void is the money. We have to figure out how to cross that bridge. There is no government money. We are deep in the queue . "
Margarita Alban, Chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission
To that end, Alban said two initiatives were underway. One is to apply for a larger amount of money for the housing authority, which is ready to oversee the construction of affordable housing.
"We asked the appraisal and tax authority if they would consider having the city loan the housing authority. It's a free idea and it is helping the housing authority move forward."
Second, Alban said the task force looked at the example of New Canaan, where a building permit fee is being charged, in order to create a trust fund for affordable housing.
In addition to the fees the city charges, people can donate to the fund.
Alban said other ideas had been considered to broaden the concept of accessory units.
"Our accessories are limited to affordable and seniors," Alban said, adding, "The Commission is talking about opening this up so you can have an accessory for everyone. However, there are tradeoffs. They will go off the shelf if you don't restrict them . "
"We talked about at least opening it up so you could create units for the disabled," she added.
Mr Ghio suggested that home vouchers provide a way to provide affordable rents without building new ones.
"It uses existing units, not new builds, and there are other incremental options like ADUs, ancillary units, or even creating internal ancillary units from larger single-family homes that doesn't even affect the city's footprint from the outside," Ghio said.
"We don't want to believe that we need 1,000 units – so that's X number of residential buildings," he said. "There are many ways to skin the cat."
"We do not want to commit to the 10% that the state prescribes. You have to do what is right for your city," said Alban.
“We are proposing an inclusive zoning regulation that requires new multi-family developments to make 20% of their units affordable, but that percentage could change. We think that's the key. We give developers incentives and discuss this with them. "
Alban said anyone interested had been invited to attend the Greenwich Task Force on Affordable Housing Meetings. The meetings are published on the city's website.
A window into the creation of DeSegregate CT State Zoning laws
January 25, 2021
The Affordable Housing Forum focuses on local control, property rights, and the unintended consequences of future government legislation
January 21, 2021
P&Z takes into account 21-unit development from 8 to 30 g on hollow wood in the flood zone
P&Z Watch: 8-30g pre-registration for the development of 15 units next to the Cos Cob School on the grounds of the flower shop
P&Z Watch: Vinyl siding could be deal breakers for applicants looking for a historic 2nd home overlay incentive
January 6, 2021
P&Z Watch: Extension to 2023 approved for multi-family development 2013 approved
Greenwich P&Z Watch: DeSegregate CT tries to make the zoning of single family homes a thing of the past
20th October 2020
P & Z Watch: Three proposals with 8 to 30 g, which are excluded from local zoning, are being examined
P&Z Watch: Illegal housing in Pemberwick is considered "affordable" legitimate
April 1, 2019