Submitted by Dan Quigley, Greenwich RTC Chair
As Democrats prepare to present legislation that would give Hartford jurisdiction over all local zoning decisions in CT, a few things stand out. First, the total lack of rationale behind the legislation, and second, the conspicuous silence of local Democrats.
This effort to strip planning and zoning authority from local municipal boards across Connecticut is an alarming act of government overreach. According to Margarita Alban, our Planning and Zoning Chair, the goal of this legislation “is to increase the housing supply — and thereby decrease housing prices in the state. It would lead to more housing in Greenwich, but none of it for people seeking affordable places to live”.
This endeavor will not lead to meeting the 10% affordable housing mandate in towns and municipalities. This is nothing but a red herring. Although the ten percent number may seem harmless at first glance, when one actually looks at the data, it is completely unattainable. Currently, 5.2% of housing in Greenwich qualifies as “affordable”. This is significantly higher than in peer communities.
The true intent is much more sinister. The real focus of this legislation is to add an oversupply of housing to Fairfield County communities, thereby driving down home prices, and making housing more “affordable”. It is not an exaggeration to say that this premise is insane.
Of note, “affordable” units must be located within one half mile of public transportation hubs. That means if you live in Cos Cob, Old Greenwich, Riverside and especially downtown Greenwich, your neighborhoods will be the main targets for over-development. If you’ve always wished Greenwich looked more like New Rochelle or White Plains, Democrats will grant you your wish with this legislation.
Remember, for a developer to offer affordable housing options, they need to offer those units as a percentage of a bigger, “market rate” portfolio. The “market rate” units are the profit drivers of any project. For instance, a developer may propose a twenty unit building, of which two units would qualify as “affordable” (10%). This means that in order for Greenwich to arrive at 1200 additional “affordable units” (to achieve the 10% target) we would likely have to add at least 4-5,000 “market rate” units in order to satisfy the “affordable” component. Is this what we want in Greenwich?
First Selectman Fred Camillo, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin and Republican State Representatives Kimberly Fiorello and Harry Arora have publicly expressed their opposition to this effort. This begs the question, where are local Democrats? Where is Steve Meskers and Alex Kasser? They love to talk about national politics, but both have been silent on this extremely important local issue. Does Ms Kasser think Greenwich needs 6,000 more dwellings? Does Mr Meskers support driving down real estate values in his district? We don’t know because they are silent.
Selectwoman, Jill Oberlander is the only prominent local Democrat to have spoken on the topic. When asked about the pending bills at a recent Board of Selectman meeting, Oberlander said she could not commit to a statement about bills that are “not yet finalized”. She went on to add “I’m not sure where I stand on any of these proposals”. Ms Oberlander’s professed ignorance, and her colleagues deafening silence on this most important local issue is an embarrassment.
The question we should all be asking is; does this benefit Greenwich in any way? The answer is a resounding NO. Greenwich has been an attractive place to live and raise a family for decades, and our local P&Z Board, in conjunction with our Housing Authority have found ways to organically add housing diversity.
This legislation will significantly increase density, negatively impact real estate prices (glut of units), and will likely spur the need for massive municipal infrastructure spending, due to a large increase in population.
Do not be mistaken, this is a Democrat led and Democrat supported initiative. It is an effort to relocate struggling pockets of our urban population from cities to well run towns throughout the state. It solves nothing for anyone, and amounts to social engineering on steroids by our state government.
Stripping us of our ability to manage our community’s housing needs will lead to an unprecedented wave of construction mandated by Hartford and executed by developers. This legislation does not promote “housing
equity”. Instead, it just devalues home prices by flooding the market with overcapacity.
Achieving real housing diversity can be accomplished through a grass roots, local and democratic approach to which Greenwich has long been committed. This issue is coming to our doorstep. Our community needs to be ready to oppose it.
Here is the Bill: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2021/TOB/H/PDF/2021HB-06613-R00-HB.PDF
Here is the link to make your voice heard: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_F10fDzNYTD2KAbjH5bKNMw