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ARPA Request: Funds For Low-Density Affordable Housing

Westport will receive $8.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Over $750,000 had already been approved for public health, tree trimming, network protection, bus shelters and COVID-related expenses.

This week the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) approved $1.3 million for the Burying Hill Beach jetty, and $200,000 for 12 local arts non-profits. In the pipeline: downtown enhancements.

Next Wednesday (February 9, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Board of Finance will consider a request for $150,000. The funds would support pre-development activities for low-density affordable housing at Post Road East, by West Parish Road. The request includies architectural fees, engineering site work, surveys, and traffic and environmental studies.

The parcel is on state Department of Transportation land, adjacent to Walgreens. Vehicles and equipment are stored there now.

Part of the Post Road East site, between Walgreens and West Parish Road.

The request comes from Westport’s Department of Human Services.  It describes “approximately 20 or more multi-family housing units in a desirable location, without high-density 8-30g project proposals from the private sector, which would typically include and additional 80+ market-rate units.”

DHS says the ARPA funds would help Westport gain moratorium points “to curtail 8-30g applications, which often result in dense housing and zoning battles.”

The proposal adds that “access to quality, affordable housing creates jobs, enhances economic development opportunities, and helps address the long history of segregated communities in (Connecticut) by creating viable options for new families to live in Westport.”

Under state law, only 3.6% of the town’s housin stock currently qualifies as “affordable.”

The DHS proposal links the funding request with ARPA’s aim — to support state, local and tribal governments’ responses to, and recovery from, the pandemic — by noting that the higher-income households have weathered COVID “without significant income losses, low-interest rates, and housing supply constraints”; in fact, it says, home values have soared.

Meanwhile, “many low-income renters and homeowners struggle with lost employment and income and are behind on their housing payments.”

The Human Services report concludes, “it is challenging to fund this development through traditional HUD and CAFA sources because it is so small in scale. Without assistance from the Town — via ARPA or other funds — a project of this scale isn’t feasible.

“Today, we have an opportunity to create the type of housing needed in Westport — quality, affordable housing for families that is centrally located with access to transportation resources and meets our community’s needs.”

(The February 9 Board of Finance meeting will be livestreamed, for those unable to be at Town Hall. Go to http://www.westportct.gov; select the “How Do I?”” heading, then “Watch Town Meetings.” It will also be shown on Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments to be read during the public comment period may be emailed to BOFcomments@westportct.gov, with full name and address. Click here for the full agenda.)

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