Fairfield, like many towns in Connecticut, is faced with the dilemma of having little affordable housing and limited open space that is appropriate for new housing development. In an attempt to address this situation, the state passed a law in 1989 providing incentives for developers to build affordable units. It is clear that this well-intended statute, 8-30g, has gone too far in favoring developers.
The recent outcry over proposed affordable housing on Homeland Street highlights the problems that need to be addressed. Under 8-30g, municipalities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is designated as affordable are subject to its requirements. Fairfield falls into this category. That means local zoning officials cannot deny permits for affordable housing unless there is a threat to public health and safety. The burden is on our Town Plan & Zoning Commission to make a compelling case for denial.
Homeland Street residents are concerned about the possibility of having three new units squeezed onto one lot in a quiet neighborhood of small, narrow streets. One of the units would be part of a duplex and classified as “affordable housing” under the state’s income eligibility guidelines.
“Many of these developers are not motivated by a desire to create more affordable housing. They are motivated by profit,” said Rep. Kim Fawcett. “They are using 8-30g to do an end run around local zoning and environmental laws that other developers must abide by.”
Yet the lack of affordable housing throughout Connecticut is a serious problem, both for individuals and employers who rely on a diverse workforce in the communities where they do business. Rep. Fawcett cites a few possible solutions:
- Allow towns to apply for an exemption from 8-30g if their local boards have created and passed an affordable plan whose goals are to increase the diversity of housing stock in accordance with Smart Growth principles. This might look like an approved overlay district where there are incentives for builders if they develop units in more densely populated areas along mass transit routes.
- Amend the statute to broaden the definition of affordable housing. Only 2.4 percent of Fairfield housing units qualify as “affordable,” though a case can be made that rents for some existing units are, in fact, low enough to be considered affordable.
“The first proposal is important because it recognizes the need for affordable and diverse housing stock while at the same time allowing towns to have local control over where more dense developments occur. It also could help the state reach the original goals of 8-30g by more clearly guiding development projects throughout Connecticut,” said Rep. Fawcett.
Join Kim for a discussion of housing and zoning statutes, including the 8-30g statute that allows developers to bypass the town's density limits. Learn the facts about this controversial law and what it means for your neighborhood. See you at Congregation Ahavath Achim, 1571 Stratfield Rd., Fairfield! Thursday, September 27th at 9:00 am.