Let’s Talk: Community Conversation Set For Affordable Housing

Nancy Kail wants affordable housing — and local control of it.

She is concerned about traffic, safety, conservation and open space.

She recognizes that there are many contradictions in those beliefs.

But she also knows that the first place to address — and untangle — them is through 8-30 g, Connecticut’s most controversial and least understood affordable housing regulation.

Nancy Kail

Kail is deeply invested in Westport. A 1980 Staples High School graduate who moved back here several years ago, she is in her first term as a Representative Town Meeting member.

But despite her long history here, and strong knowledge of local affairs, she realized during the RTM’s recent debate on the Hamlet at Saugatuck project that she did not know as much about 8-30g as she would like.

(Connecticut’s law stipulates that 10% of a municipality’s housing stock be “affordable,” under a state formula. Developers may bypass local zoning regulations if they set aside 30% of a project’s units for such housing. Towns may seek moratoriums, though only housing built after 1990 is considered in the 8-30g formula.)

The RTM’s discussion of the Hamlet proposal — sparked by a citizens’ petition, after the Planning & Zoning Commission adopted a text and map amendment that would allow a hotel/residential/retail/marina complex to be built in the area around the train station, Riverside and Railroad Place — was an eye-opener for Kail.

“I came in with an open mind, but had a definite opinion,” Kail says.

“Hearing about the implications of 8-30g on the P&Z’s decision made me do a  total 180.”

The specter of 8-30g hovered over discussions of the Hamlet at Saugatuck project.

Kail began thinking about affordable housing, and all its consequences. How did it give rise to 8-30g? What are the implications when Westport’s moratorium expires next month? What can a town do, or not do, under the 8-30g statute?

She realized she needed to know more about 8-30g, so that she could understand Westport’s approach to affordable housing.

And she realized she was not the only one needing to know more.

The result is an open forum. “The Impact of Connecticut State Statute 8-30g: What We Can Expect for 2023” is set for next Monday (February 27, 7 p.m., Westport Library).

Working with fellow RTM members Seth Braunstein, Ross Burkhardt, Jimmy Izzo, Sal Liccione, Matthew Mandell, Liz Milwe and Claudia Schaum, Kail has organized a diverse panel:

  • State Representative Jonathan Steinberg
  • Westport town attorney ira Bloom
  • Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin
  • Connecticut Center for Ending Homelessness CEO Evonne Klein.

The event will be led by RTM moderator Jeff Wieser, former CEO of Westport’s Homes with Hope.

The panel discussion will be followed by a Q-and-A, with audience members.

This is only the start of a town-wide exploration of affordable housing. Other sessions will be held later.

“We all can learn a lot, from good, solid, non-inflammatory conversations,” Kail says.

34 responses to “Let’s Talk: Community Conversation Set For Affordable Housing

  1. I sure hope that them on the panel will share with the audience the fact that in Westport, there are dozens and dozens of housing units that meet the state’s “affordable” standards…these dwelling units are ones built prior to 1990 and many built after that date that qualify in terms of rent but not in terms of the state’s convoluted, difficult to monitor legal requirements…Connecticut’s median income for families of 1, 2, 3 or four, is, in fact, high enough that 30% of it will cover the rent on the aforementioned dwelling units. To not count them in when discussing the burdensome 830g, is to cheat the audience out the knowledge they are gathering to garner on the 27th.

  2. Way to go, Nancy Kail!

    Knowledge is power. Understanding the law helps provide us with ideas of how to address the issue of affordable housing in Westport in a manner that defends the interests of our residents, meets the state mandate and addresses the issue of affordable housing.

    Local control does not equal local stonewalling. Stonewalling leads to laws like 830-g: blunt instruments that ride roughshod over traffic, safety and town character. Some rapacious developers can use this law to override local concerns. So it’s up to Westporters to educate themselves and get ahead of this issue.

    Better to show up, get educated and get involved!

  3. Re affordable housing: there is a seemingly simple local issue that perhaps our area reps can help rectify—especially as Westport has a designated member on the Board of the Directors of the impacted affordable housing complex in town.

    The complex I am referring to is The Saugatuck, the senior moderate-to-low-income co-op at 35 Bridge Street with capped prices that are below market value for Westport housing.

    The issue: the only way people have been able to buy into the complex in recent years is by way of an all-cash transaction. As a resident at The Saugatuck, I have contended in the past that this is not consistent with the notion of affordability as not everyone has a substantial amount of cash on hand to buy into the complex.

    I have now witnessed this first-hand as my wife and I literally just put up for sale this weekend our 2BR, 2bth unit at The Saugatuck and there were two prospective buyers interested in seeing it but who could not go ahead once they learned of the inability to get a mortgage.

    That’s not right from my perspective—even though we have other prospective buyers who are in an all-cash position to come take a look at it.

    By the way, the apparent reluctance/refusal of the banks to give a mortgage has nothing to do with the financial position of the building; there is a good-sized reserve fund.

    The reluctance/refusal of the banks—as it was explained to me—had to do with a modification of the standard Recognition Agreement by the building’s attorney (which was in theory done to better protect the position of the building’s existing residents).

    If that is indeed what is triggering this problem, I fail to understand that since I served on two co-op boards in NYC and everything functioned smoothly with the standard Recognition Agreement being used.

    There were two area banks quite a while back that were giving loans but that was no longer the case when I checked.

    So, again, this seems like a local issue that our area reps can help rectify.

    • While I am not a lawyer (although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), isn’t this the doing of the building’s lawyer. — changing the standard recognition agreement to an enhanced agreement?

  4. The only way to take control of this issue is for the town itself to build affordable housing. Maybe we can build housing that will be attractive to our first responders who would become part of the community.

    • Thanks, Peter, for the comment.
      Of course, the best way to get “affordable” housing is for a town to build it…however, all them that cry for “inclusion” and “affordability” will balk loudly against any tax increase that would allow a town to do the building. so towns just don’t do it.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        Why do you keep using the term “them” and use incorrect grammar in association with that word?

        • It doesn’t really matter. It’s like asking why the duke & duchess of Sussex have decided to contribute to the betterment of humanity by producing rom-coms. Them can.

        • Just for fun, Stephanie….sorry if it insults your grammer
          correctness genes…will do better next time around. 🙂

        • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          You tell ‘em Stephanie if you can learn the King’s English they have NO excuse. They’re Westporter’s after all, they’re products of the most highly advanced educational system known to personkind. Their parents have the tax bills to prove it. Some of us even graduated from Staples High where friendly ties can n’eer be broken.

    • There is another way:
      “The Island Housing Trust is a non-profit Community Land Trust organization that supports a diverse and vital community on the island of Martha’s Vineyard by creating and sustaining permanently affordable housing, both rental and ownership.

      Over the past 15 years we have sold and rented 126 homes and apartments to year-round low and moderate income families throughout Martha’s Vineyard.

      Our social justice roots are firmly planted in the Community Land Trust movement which began in the late 1960’s during the civil-rights-era. A CLT is a mechanism by which land is held in trust and managed by a nonprofit, used for whatever a community chooses, whether that’s housing, small businesses, cultural spaces, gardens, parks, or farms. The land is owned by a trust, which keeps it out of speculators’ hands, but residences and other structures can be privately owned and inherited, allowing community members to build wealth.”

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Chelico that if the town could initiate 100% affordable housing developments this would vastly accelerate getting to the level needed for state compliance. Compare this to 30% affordable housing in larger developments all over town.

    Further, wouldn’t traffic be reduced if people who worked here lived here?

    Can the Town itself initiate housing developments?

  6. Kristin Schneeman

    Thanks to my District 9 RTM colleague Nancy Kail for taking on the organizing of this valuable open forum on a critical issue for our community! I urge everyone reading this to consider attending, it deserves a robust audience.

  7. Thanks Nancy for doing this district 9 we stick together yes

  8. Way to go Nancy!

  9. Westport should try to create affordable housing for its teachers and other town employees so they can live in Westport.

    • And what if they told you they didn’t want to live in Westport under those conditions?

      • Indeed. why would any fireman, cop, teacher or town hall employee want to live in the town in which they work…so they could run into a bitching, disgruntled, entitled feeling taxpayer as they shopped or got a hair cut?

        • FIFY. Indeed. why would anyone want to live in Westport …so they could run into a bitching, disgruntled, entitled feeling residents as they shopped or got a hair cut?

          Affordable housing and providing the undeserved beach access. Not in 06880, that’s for sure.

          Right Dan?

  10. Richard Rosencrans

    Nancy Kail is a local treasure; whip smart, rational, tireless, and inclusive. Organizing this forum is a great idea and typical of the kind of service Nancy provides to her constituents.

  11. Dan Katz- Thank you!! Why have we not been granted credits for previous affordable housing created pre 1990? Hales Court? The former Trailer Park?
    Developers have learned to “manipulate” the 8-30g statue to hold towns hostage, bypassing local zoning and safety codes knowing they will win in court.
    The current 8-30g needs to be modified as local towns will never be able to keep up even if reaching a 4 year moratorium. The land is just not there. We have been trying to work with the State, to acquire state land to build such housing.
    We need State Legislatures – Hartford, to help towns reach affordable housing goals not help developers abuse a statue in need of modification.

  12. I’m lost. It is difficult to read between the lines and understand what people really mean on formats such as this.
    I apologize for any flippant remarks, especially those above, because I had to guess what a person really meant. Should have written nothing.

    Obviously, not everyone is made to participate well in the blog world. Even so, to quote Eric B., I am from Westport, not of Westport, but miss it (sort of).
    Best in your endeavours, Westport. Just try not to take yourself so seriously.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Dawna, flattered at your reference. I’ve felt like a hound dog baying at the moon. The current state of mind you described for yourself summarizes very well where I’m at. I miss Westport I hope it finds people who can help it rebuild. They don’t reside in a White House on Avery Place. And Lyman is not Marigny. Not even close.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        I am curious Eric. You said Wearport is not how it USED to be. You said it USED to be anti- semitic. You complained about a situation you had at Staples that seemed to have some racist undertones.
        So, do you want Westport to be how it USED to be or do you want it to be better than it used to be which means the town residents content with topics of racism and discrimination which you hate by calling it woke or whatever right wing vilification you want to use.
        What is is Wric? Old westport that you described as racist or anti- semitic or working on making it better?

        • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          Hi Stephanie,
          Yes, Westport’s history is not perfect. Sadly, you apparently didn’t grasp my underlying point in our offline phone conversation which was that the oppressed have become the oppressors, particularly in the past 18-24 months. I responded earlier to your later public utterance and suggested we take it offline. Wouldn’t you agree it goes better for us that way? Just let me know how you’d prefer we proceed. There’s always the option to just move on.

  13. Also, do not refer to anything as character or imply density as it relates to 8-30g and architectural integrity because apparently it is a euphemism for racism. Not quite sure how these descriptive terms have take on such a meaning. Maybe someone can please enlighten me.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      The developers will continue to enrich themselves at the expense of Westport’s soul. I can’t wait to see what emerges as the agreed definition of “affordable housing.”

  14. Carl Addison Swanson, SHS, 66

    Welp, let’s just talk about it. No sense doing anything. Maybe we can create a study when we are done talking about it. Money is the only thing that fuels and runs this town. And developers ain’t gonna like “30% low income.” Implies moocher, dead beat, slacker. We don’t do have such in Westport! We aren’t really snobs but we are just better than anymore else. Didn’t you get the memo?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      CAS, as the curator of the (squad-like) museum of history and culture likes to say (when she thinks I’m not paying attention) “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

  15. Nancy rocks. So glad she’s my rep. I worked for the nonprofit, affordable housing co. that developed Wassell Lane right here in Westport. It can be done. Community controlled affordable housing is the way to maintain local control.
    Can’t wait until next Monday. Let’s do this!

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