Demand for affordable housing is strong, in Glastonbury and across the state.
Connecticut is short of about 85,000 affordable housing units for very low-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates. Multi-family rental properties in Glastonbury have been “functionally nil” in recent years, Guszkowski said, while the current waiting list for properties owned by the Glastonbury Housing Authority has more than 1,100 names.
“It’s absolutely clear that the demand at Glastonbury is there,” he said.
Building the units, however, will require “significant political will,” says Pamela Lucas, an immigration lawyer and leader of Glastonbury-based community organization TALK.
Zoning laws in Connecticut cities discriminate against multifamily developments by favoring single-family or age-restricted housing, while affordable housing projects routinely face fierce public opposition.
There are also market challenges. high costs make it difficult for developers to make rents affordable for low-income people. Developers say they need more tax credits, while housing advocates call for more government investment in housing assistance programs.
But removing Connecticut’s myriad barriers to affordable housing isn’t impossible, according to a report released this week by a planning and development group.
In an analysis of Glastonbury presented at the Zoom conference on Tuesday evening, the Vernon-based Tyche Planning & Policy Group recommended that the suburb of Hartford change zoning regulations to allow multi-family dwellings on single-family lots, build housing on city-owned land and convert vacant office buildings. to apartments, among other strategies.
According to The reportthese steps would allow Glastonbury to build up to 1,550 affordable homes.
“What this report demonstrates is that cities in Connecticut can achieve their fair share goals if they try,” said Erin Boggs, executive director of the Open Communities Alliance, a civil rights organization in the United States. statewide who commissioned the report with TALK.
“Equitable Sharing” refers to House Bill 5204or the Fair Share Bill, which would ask municipalities to create plans to address the state’s lack of affordable housing options — housing that costs no more than 30% of a person’s income.
The bill is applauded by housing advocates, who say a similar model is working in New Jersey to promote new, non-segregated housing.
Reviewsmeanwhile, say the bill’s parameters are too vague and would burden cities with lofty goals, strain aging municipal infrastructure and disrupt well-established neighborhood characters.
For Boggs, Tyche Planning’s analysis of Glastonbury proves otherwise.
John Guszkowski, co-founder and director of Tyche Planning and lead author of the report, said Glastonbury should implement inclusive zoning as a fundamental development requirement if it is to achieve affordable housing targets.
Inclusive zoning is “an absolutely essential thing,” Guszkowski said, and the place “pretty much every city in the state needs to start.”
Under inclusionary zoning, cities could set aside a percentage of affordable units each time new housing is developed. They would retain the flexibility to adjust the number of affordable units based on market conditions, Guszkowski said.
In Glastonbury, the report identified city-owned land that has no zoning restrictions, which Guszkowski said could support at least 400 affordable units. One hundred to 150 units could be developed by converting underutilized office space.
Some zoning changes would also be required.
Tyche Planning’s report identified several plots zoned for single-family housing in Glastonbury that Guszkowski says could be used for so-called “missing middle” housing, or multi-family housing that retains the look and scale of a single family. Developing and converting these batches could produce more than 500 affordable units, he said.
In the denser northwest corner of Glastonbury, planners could create more than 300 affordable homes if they allow moderate-density multi-family housing on currently vacant single-family land.
Although multifamily housing is technically considered residential, many Connecticut city planners treat it more as commercial or industrial, according to Sam Giffin, policy and data analyst at the Open Communities Alliance.
And when multifamily is allowed, it’s usually only at low densities, Giffin said.
“Many cities are thinking about [multifamily housing] as a threat to their existence, or to the character and compatibility of the city,” Giffin said Tuesday.
Lucas, the leader of TALK, said members of the organization were interested in “doing something real” to combat segregation in Connecticut, and began to analyze Glastonbury’s zoning laws and practices.
“A lot of our city leaders, unlike the members of the social justice committee, aren’t ready to embrace a fair share, but they seem ready to take a few steps forward,” Lucas said.
The reluctance of Connecticut cities to zone for multifamily housing was the focus of a report by Giffin’s author called Zoning for Equity, vol. IIreleased earlier in April.
The report found that Connecticut has the 10th highest housing wage in the nation, meaning a family would have to work 91 hours a week at minimum wage to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
More than 135,000 Connecticut households who earn less than 30% of the region’s average median income are paying more than 50% of their wages in rent or mortgages, according to Boggs.
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Glastonbury officials could explore inclusive zoning when drafting its affordable housing plan, which the state requires all towns and cities to submit by June 1 under state law 8-30d.
Neil Griffin Jr., executive director of the Glastonbury Housing Authority, said the town’s plan was heading to city council for another public hearing and council recommendations.
In addition to political will, planners will need answers to the myriad of market challenges that developers say make it difficult to build affordable housing.
One of the benefits of the recommendations advanced by Tyche Planning, Guszkowski said, is the variety of strategies for achieving affordable housing goals. Units could be built in and around existing developments, rather than two large apartment towers – an image some associate with affordable housing.
“It’s not that Glastonbury or any other community would be commissioned to build these two 750-unit housing towers, but they would be tailored to the specific infrastructure and building environment conditions,” Guszkowski said.
Seamus McAvoy can be reached at [email protected]