We’ve all heard a lot about 8-30g — the state’s “affordable housing” statute.
But what is “8-30g”? And what does “affordable housing” really mean?
At last Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting — where members voted unanimously to deny an application for a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex (including 15 affordable units) — P&Z member Catherine Walsh entered into the record a report on that topic.
She noted that Westport currently has “a diversity of housing stock for low income groups, special needs, the homeless and the elderly.”
Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. Because it was built before 1990, it does not count for points under 8-30g standards.
However, 8-30g counts only units constructed after 1990, and those that are deed-restricted for 40 years. Most Westport units that serve lower-income groups do not fall into either category, she said.
But they do exist.
According to the 2010 census, 10,399 dwelling units are used for calculating 8-30g “points.” Of those, 9,860 are single-family homes.
Among “single family” units, there are 1,069 documented apartments. Only 7 are deed-restricted, to comply with 8-30g.
She included other figures, including group homes and approved-but-not-yet-completed units, as well as low-income units that do not fully comply with all aspects, yet still serve low-income citizens.
“Westport has always believed in and encouraged increasing the diversity of housing stock while maintaining our small town character,” Walsh said.
Hales Court was built in the 1950s. A recent rebuilding effort added twice the number of lower-income housing units.
In recent years the P&Z took action to “further encourage diversity of housing,” and comply with 8-30g requirements. Members enacted legislation covering mobile home replacement units, and created a variety of zones. These range from 15% affordable, to 100%.
Westport has also encouraged legalizing existing apartments in private homes. Over 1,000 units would benefit lower-income residents, but do not comply with the statute. (Most homeowners oppose 40-year deed restrictions.) Over 200 in-home apartments have been legalized.
The old Saugatuck School on Bridge Street has been repurposed into low-cost housing for the elderly. Those 36 units do not count toward 8-30g.
In 2010 the P&Z passed text amendments to allow affordable housing in 8 split commercial/residential zones. There were no applications until 2014. The Geiger project (Post Road and North Morningside) is currently under construction.
In addition, the town — through its Housing Authority — has upgraded low-income housing units at Hales Court and Sasco Creek. Hales Court (built in the 1950s) now has twice the number of units (78). Sasco Creek also increases the number of affordable units.
The original Saugatuck Elementary School on Bridge Street is now elderly housing. Built (way) before 1990, it is not included as “affordable” by 8-30g regulations.
In other affordable housing news, RTM member Matthew Mandell sent “06880” a link to an equation he developed (with help from Staples High School teachers Bill Walsh and David Rollison). Click here to see it.
Inputting a few figures lets you know how many units must be built to reach the 10% affordable figure mandated in 8-30g. It works for any town — not just Westport.
Mandell takes his math one step further. Start with a round figure of 10,000 housing units in Westport. Approximately 270 are deemed “affordable,” by 8-30g standards.
To get to the statute’s target of 1,000 units, you’d think we’d need to build 730 more.
Wrong, Mandell says. It’s more like 3,650.
Mandell notes that the affordable units being proposed now in Westport are part of bigger complexes. Every unit in a new proposal is not “affordably” priced.
So a developer who builds a 150-unit building with 45 affordable apartments has also built 105 that are not. And the town’s housing stock has increased by 150 as well — meaning more, not fewer, affordable units now must be built. The end number keeps moving further away.
“If we built 3 buildings with 250 units each — all of them affordable — we could do it,” Mandell says.
“But that’s impossible. We can’t get to 10% without destroying the very fabric of our community.”