The Planning & Zoning Commission has released the draft of the town’s 5-year Affordable Housing Plan. It was posted to the town website last night.
There is now a 35-day review period. It will include a Zoom community conversation, for feedback. The date and time has not yet been set.
The draft begins with a “Community Value Statement”:
To encourage the pro-active development and preservation of affordable (and below market rate) housing, including the development of affordable housing designed specifically to attract new families to Westport. The thoughtful creation of affordable housing is critical to ensuring a diverse community of residents in Westport.
With proper planning, new affordable development can be encouraged while preserving Westport’s charming small town feel, historic resources, green spaces and the suburban lifestyle that attracts residents to want to live in this community and raise their families here.
The issue of insufficient affordable housing is not unique to Westport and is not easily addressed in a community with such high land values, but this does not absolve us of the responsibility to create solutions.
Then comes an “Executive Summary”:
Connecticut has become a very expensive place to live. Over the last decades, the costs of land, housing development, home building, and rent have risen faster than incomes. The town of Westport, like many Fairfield County communities that provide a suburban alternative to living in New York City, is zoned predominantly for single family homes.
For many years, the development of multifamily rentals and condominiums, accessory apartments and accessory dwelling units in Westport was limited. Multifamily units that were developed were often deed restricted for seniors
making it challenging for any families unable to afford a single family home to live in Westport.
Westport’s zoning regulations have changed and are continuing to change in order to foster the development of more affordable housing and provide opportunities for all demographic cohorts to live in Westport. Over the next several years, a significant number of new affordable units will be created in Westport based upon approvals and projects in the pipeline.
Action items to continue this momentum over the next 5 years include:
• Creating a new affordable community designed specifically for families, spearheaded by local elected officials with the assistance of the Department of Housing, on +/- 2 acres of state-owned land located in Greens Farms adjacent to public transit, grocery stores, retail and within walking distance of one of the State’s highest ranked elementary schools. Feasibility study funds have already been allocated by the Town using federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.
• The formation of a town-funded Affordable Housing Trust Fund to direct resources towards future development of affordable housing.
• The immediate development of location specific plans for town-owned land to meaningfully expand and/or renovate existing rental housing/structures to create affordable housing, and to potentially partner with nonprofits engaged in this work. Potential properties include existing cottages at Longshore Park (260 Compo Road South), Linxweiler House (655 Post Road East), Adams Academy (15 Morningside Drive North), existing housing at Baron’s South (60 Compo
Road South) and the vacant lot adjacent to The Saugatuck (0 Bridge Street). Significant consideration should be given to the creation of pocket neighborhoods (small cottage/small home commons clusters).
• Allocation of the approximately $1,700,000 in the town’s Real Property Fund to acquire land for future development of affordable housing.
• The deed restriction of existing town-owned rental properties so that they are affordable and remain affordable to renters.
• The elimination of zoning barriers to foster additional projects pursuant to Westport’s Inclusionary Housing Zone overlay by expanding the overlay zone and revising the regulations.
• The adoption of a new zoning district at Powell Place to ensure that existing deeply affordable housing (40% State Median Income or less) can be more intensively redeveloped with flexible parking requirements reflecting the availability of public lots nearby.
• Explore the process by which public funds can be used to “buy down” market rate units in approved/existing buildings to become affordable or more affordable, perhaps via the new Affordable Housing Trust Fund or existing Real Property Fund or both.
• Explore opportunities to allow greater density in residential districts with a meaningful affordability component via the adoption of zoning code changes to permit historically contextual pocket neighborhoods with a shared commons when an antique home is preserved.
• The development of 225 multifamily units, including 70 affordable units as a result of the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission’s affirmative choice to settle several long-running lawsuits. Nineteen 3-bedroom units will be included because of the specific demand of the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission to address the needs of families seeking housing in Westport.
• Focusing the commission & staff efforts on constantly reviewing new technology to create sustainable and inexpensive new construction via modular construction and prefab tiny/cottage home building. Advances in housing construction should be leveraged for development opportunities on town owned land and in order to incentivize developers to create aesthetically appropriate cottage communities around existing antique homes to ensure such homes are preserved.
The remainder of the 47-page report includes sections on “The Importance of Planning,” “Affordable Housing Basics,” “Existing Affordable Housing in Westport,” “Housing Needs Assessment,” Westport’s Current and Projected Population Profile,” “Current Strategies for Fostering Affordable and Below Market Rate Housing,” and “Implementation: The 5-Year Plan.”
Click here for the full report.