Greenwich has been feeling the squeeze from Hartford to add affordable housing since legislation intended to address housing inequities in Connecticut passed this spring.
The proposed legislation played out over months of Zoom meetings and marathon legislative hearings before being scaled down.
The legislation was a compromise and omitted much of the package of reforms recommended by Desegregate CT.
What was included was a requirement that municipalities allow in-law apartments, or “Accessory Dwelling Units” (ADUs) in single family homes (excludes R6). In Greenwich P&Z submitted a pre-application for a text amendment to Section 6-99 to consider permitting “ADU”s per the state’s statute.
The ADUs don’t count toward the state requirement that every town have 10% of their housing stock “affordable” and the state affordable housing statute, 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes, supersedes all local zoning rules except in the rare case of health and safety.
Currently, about 5.4 % of the Greenwich’s housing is classified as affordable.
It would take roughly 1,200 units of affordable housing to reach the 10% required, and it’s questionable whether Greenwich even has the infrastructure to support that much additional housing, but there is the possibility existing housing can become affordable.
An affordable housing trust fund based on exclusively donations (not on a fee to developers) could potentially chip away at that 1200 units, and maybe even result in a moratorium on 8-30g requirements for Greenwich if enough progress is made.
The way the trust fund would work is private donations could be used to create housing with a below market rate component.
Along that vein, the town has been able to convert some illegal apartments to affordable ones.
Lat week P&Z gave feedback on a pre-application to make a basement into an 8-30g unit at 21 Melrose Ave in Chickahominy, a dead end off West Putnam Ave. It is in the R6 zone which is limited to 2-family homes.
21 Melrose Avenue in Chickahominy
The applicant, Tullamore LLC, sought to create a 2-bedroom, one bath apartment and make it “affordable” pursuant to 8-30g.
Currently, the lower level consists of storage, laundry, mechanical space and a half bath. The renovation would pose minimal alteration to the exterior by only creating a few window opening. There would be no changes to green space, impervious surface, building volume, height or setbacks.
Unfortunately for the applicant, their existing three units are non conforming since a maximum of two units is allowed in R6.
“Your client already has 50% more than what would be allowed as of right,” said P&Z commission chair Margarita Alban. “I see very little path in us looking at this application favorably.”
“You would not be able to increase that non conformity by creating that 8-30g,” Alban said. “We would strongly suggest your client remain with his 3 non conforming units.”
Commissioner Victoria Goss pointed out that the applicant could fall within the regulations if they were to make two of the apartments 8-30g affordable units.
“In that case he would have to do one at 60% of state median income and the other would be at 80% of state median income,” Alban explained. “Then the commission would have to decide if the application has any health or safety issues, or any other issues that exceed the town’s need for affordable housing.”
P&Z director Katie DeLuca said the statute also notes that the affordable units have to be equivalent value of the market rate units.
She said that would be a potential concern if the affordable units in the building were smaller than the other units.
“I’m going to be a little more blunt,” Alban said. “If you came in with a unit that is significantly less attractive than the other ones – i.e. the basement, without nice ventilation and light, it would not be comparable, and it would be an issue.”
The commission asked the applicant to rethink their plans.
The RTM special committee on the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will again take up the topic at a meeting July 26 in the Mazza room at town hall at 7:00pm. (There is also a Public Info Session scheduled for July 28 at 7:00pm)