Stone McGuigan: Support Affordable Housing in Greenwich

Janet Stone McGuigan, Greenwich Selectperson

On Tuesday, May 10, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on its proposed Affordable Housing Plan (AHP), which will then come before the Board of Selectmen (BOS) at its meeting on Thursday, May 12, and once approved, before the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) at its June meeting.  

I encourage the Greenwich community to inform itself about the AHP, which I plan to fully support.

Much has been said about the State statute 8-30g, which overrides local zoning requirements in exchange for developers setting aside 30 percent of a proposal’s units as affordable.  I agree with critics that the statute has revealed its flaws, and that the list of 8-30g related proposals include many that are oversized for their intended locations. 

However, it is unlikely that 8-30g will be modified or overturned any time soon, and 8-30g was never intended to be the only means for a town to create affordable housing.   

After being presented with the AHP at Thursday’s Selectmen meeting, I’ll look forward to attending the Greenwich Historical Society’s “Discover Greenwich” program that evening.  Greenwich has a history of creating affordable housing, and now more than ever this is a history that we need to continue.  In a recent Greenwich Time edition that included coverage of a local rally against 8-30g, there was also an in-depth article featuring a home health aide who works 70 hours a week but often finds herself living out of her car because she cannot afford rent. 

I could write about the need to care for everyone in a community, but this example illustrates that a lack of affordable and workforce housing is in no one’s interest.  

As I write this letter, I am preparing to attend the RTM’s budget vote.  I was disappointed that the BET cut the original earmark of $1.8 million for the recently created Affordable Housing Trust Fund – from the $30 million American Rescue Plan Act funding coming to the Town – down to $1.1 million, and of that conditioned $450k on matching private funds.  But a trust fund between $650k and $1.55 million is just not a lot of money in the Greenwich real estate market.    

These funds can be used to create assisted housing projects, which come under different rules than the 8-30g set asides. 

I encourage any generous benefactors reading this to consider a donation to the Trust Fund, and I would argue that future Town budgets should also consider investments in the Trust Fund.  

Meanwhile, I believe that as a community it is important that we focus on our housing needs, and that the AHP is the way forward. 

Thank you to all who have worked so hard to create this excellent plan.