RESTIERI: Why “Fair Share” Is Wrong for Greenwich

Submitted by Tara Restieri, Greenwich

HB 6633, the “Fair Share” bill which is slated to be presented on February 28 at 11:00am to the Joint Commission on Housing is an example of legislative overreach and is an example of central state planning at its worst. CT169Strong (a group dedicated to local municipalities retaining local zoning control) has calculated the “Fair Share” requirements for all towns and discovered that the legislators and Open Communities Alliance (OCA) are not being transparent with the public.

Under HB6633 “Fair Share” a municipality is faced with two options. For the purposes of this argument, let’s use Greenwich as the municipality. Option # 1) Greenwich builds and funds Fair Share through local taxes. Option # 2) Greenwich allows builder(s) to develop the necessary units with a requirement of 20% affordable units in every project.

Now, let’s assess what impact each option would have on Greenwich.

Greenwich “Fair Share” Calculation:

Greenwich’s annual operating budget for FY’22-‘23 is approximately $465million dollars.

Greenwich’s total housing stock per OCA = 21,053 units

Greenwich’s “Fair Share”; affordable housing allocation per OCA = 3,304 units

Mandated time to build this additional 3,304 units = 10 years

If Greenwich were to choose Option #1 and build out 3,404 units of affordable housing stock, and if one estimates the cost of building each affordable unit at $450k/unit, the overall expenditure which would be funded solely through tax revenues would total an astounding $1,486,800 billion dollars!

Using the 3, 5, 7 and 10-year US Treasury benchmarks mandated by the bill, the breakdown of spending in years 1-10 that would required to build the 3,404 units would be as follows;

Years 1, 2 & 3: $24.78M development cost per year.
Years 4 & 5: $185.9M development cost per year.
Years 6 & 7: $223.02M development cost per year.
Years 8, 9 &10: $198.24M development cost per year.

Conclusion for Option #1: If you compare “Fair Share”; costs to our annual town budget (using the FY2022-23 estimate) then, in order to meet the requirements of “Fair Share” development of the $1.48 Billion, we would need to spend almost 3 times the amount of the annual town budget.

OPTION #2: Have developers build “market value” projects of which 20% would be required to meet affordable housing standards. In order to meet this unrealistic requirement, approximately 17,000 market rate units would need to be built in order to accommodate the 3,400 affordable units. This would nearly double Greenwich’s current housing stock over one decade to over 38,000 units. Greenwich would, in essence, cease to be Greenwich, and would become a city.

Conclusion for Option #2: While the cost to build 17,000 market units would rest with developers, not taxpayers, it would have a significant negative corollary impact on our town infrastructure. Our roads, sidewalks, schools, human services, public safety, sewer system, local transportation and other infrastructure would require significant upgrades, and this cost would be on the shoulders of us, the Greenwich taxpayer. When one considers the already existing challenges of the significant capital needs of the Greenwich Public School system, and the likely municipal infrastructure updates that would coincide with the addition of more than 20,000 downtown units, Greenwich’s status as a lower tax municipality would be obliterated.

In addition to the aforementioned stresses on local infrastructure, budgets and the likelihood of significant tax increases to residents, Greenwich would also face a significant “penalty” if we do not meet the requirements in the legislation if it passes muster in Hartford. These requirements would apply to both the number of units as well as the time deadline in the proposed bill. The ensuing result would allow for development anywhere in Greenwich (As of Right building), whether the lots were connected to public water, drainage or sewage infrastructure or not.

It is difficult, if impossible to find aspects of this legislation that would prove beneficial to our community. It would effectively erase single family zoning, and its adverse consequences would impact our neighborhoods, schools, our infrastructure and our sensitive coastal environmental habitats.

Advancing affordable housing is a laudable goal. Sadly, “Fair Share” does just the opposite. It serves as a blank check for developers to sidestep local planning and zoning committees in the pursuit of profits disguised as altruistic development. Those of us who strongly support local zoning control, also support adding affordable housing options in accordance with what fits best for each individual local community.

Groups like the Regional Planning Association whose long list of donors are a “who’s who” of developers, construction contractors and real-estate investment trusts, fund groups like OCA and DeSegregateCT. Therein lies a real conflict of interest. It is these donors who will ultimately reap the profits of massive “Transit Oriented Development”, “Work Live Ride” and other proposals like HB6633 “Fair Share”, while towns like Greenwich will be guinea pigs for their central planning experiments.

In order to fight this legislation, here is what Greenwich Residents need to do:

Greenwich Residents what you need to do:
1) Write testimony to oppose the Fair Share bill. Submit it here: Submit Written Testimony
2) Sign up to speak in opposition of the Fair Share bill: Sign up to speak

Tara Restieri, Resident of Greenwich Connecticut and Member of CT169 Strong