Tag Archives: Hales Court

8-30g Relief? Not So Fast.

It seemed like welcome news last month, when the General Assembly overrode Governor Malloy’s veto of a bill that would loosen restrictions of 8-30g. Part of the state’s affordable housing standards, 8-30g incentivizes municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing stock “affordable.”

Officials in Westport — which has more affordable housing than counts under narrow 8-30g regulations — thought the override meant they’d qualify for a moratorium.

But the devil may be in the details.

According to Partnership for Strong Communities — a statewide policy and advocacy organization “dedicated to ending homelessness, expanding the creation of affordable housing, and building strong communities in Connecticut” — Westport will not qualify for “eligibility relief.”

Hales Court is affordable Westport housing — though it was built before 8-30g regulations came in effect in 1990, and does not count for “points.”

The reasons are complex. The organization says:

Through September 30, 2022 a town is eligible for a moratorium from the provisions of Section 8-30g if it shows that it has added affordable housing units equal to the greater of 2 percent of the housing stock, or 50 Housing Unit Equivalent (HUE) points. Previously, the minimum number of HUE points required was 75. This change makes it easier for the state’s 64 smallest towns to achieve a moratorium.

But Westport is not among those “smallest towns.”

For towns with 20,000 or more housing units, the requirements for achieving a 2nd and subsequent moratorium have been eased by reducing the number of HUE points needed from 2% of a town’s housing units to 1.5%. The term of a 2nd or subsequent moratorium is extended from 4 to 5 years for 6 towns: Fairfield, Greenwich, Hamden, Milford, Stratford and West Hartford.

In other words — according to PSC — Westport is not helped by having 10,000 housing units less than the 20,000.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown. It too was built before 1990.

The organization continues:

Through September 30, 2022, restricted family units with at least 3 bedrooms, or in an Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ), receive a 1/4-point bonus. Restricted elderly units receive a 1/2-point bonus, if at least 60% of the restricted units counted toward the moratorium are family units.

However, no 3-bedroom units have been offered in any 8-30g in Westport.

Complex? Absolutely.

What comes next? Perhaps more “affordable housing” proposals.

Stay tuned.

Affordable Housing: Westport By The Numbers

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.

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.

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.

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.

What?!

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.”

 

“Hell’s Court,” 40 Years Later

Last month, I wrote a story on Hales Court.  Construction is well underway on 78 housing units there, transforming what was once a housing “project” into a 21st-century neighborhood.

To illustrate its previous incarnation, I said that Hales Court was “once derided as ‘Hell’s Court’ by a teenager living there.”

It was one quick line — but it resonated a month later with one other person, somewhere in America.

The other day, I got this email:

For some reason, I was thinking tonight about an essay written by a classmate in my 9th grade English class at Bedford Junior High.  The essay won an award and was published in the Westport News, if I recall correctly.

My classmate lived on Hales Court and was someone I thought of as a tough kid.  After he read his essay to our class, I saw him in an entirely different light. That 15-year-old boy was carrying more on his shoulders than any kid should ever be expected to bear.

The essay writer was the teenager who referred to the street as Hell’s Court.  Actually, he explained in his essay that his mother called the neighborhood “Hell’s Court” because of the misfortunes his family had suffered after they moved there.

I left Westport 36 years ago.  41 years have passed since that student read his essay to our class.  It was so moving, so powerful, that when I remembered it tonight, I googled “Hale’s Court” “Hell’s Court,” hoping that I might find it online. That’s how I found this blog post.

I won’t mention the writer’s name out of respect for his privacy, but for as long as I live, I will never forget him or that essay.

It’s been years since anyone referred to “Hell’s Court” — and, thanks to new construction, it’s doubtful anyone ever will again.

But one junior high essay, written by one marginalized boy, had such a powerful effect on one other boy that he remembered it as a man 4 decades later.

That’s powerful stuff.  And it’s a powerful reminder that everything we say, everything we write and everything we do, affects someone, in some way.

Sometimes, for the rest of his or her life.

Hales Court today -- a far cry from "Hell's Court."

Hailing Hales Progress

Very quietly — metaphorically, anyway — 21st-century housing is rising on the site of a mid-20th-century housing project.

Construction is well underway on 78 housing units on Hales Court.  And hardly anyone in town realizes that the area once derided as “Hell’s Court” by a teenager living there — and sneered at by Westporters who couldn’t believe a “housing project” was part of their town, just a mile or so from the beach — is undergoing a major transformation.

Some of the already occupied homes in Hales Court.

The $24 million project — paid for by federal and state funds — will nearly double the original 40 ranch-style detached homes.  Those were built in 1950, to provide affordable housing for returning veterans.  Over the years, many town employees lived there.

But later, Hales Court became Westport shorthand for “small, substandard housing.”  The hastily built homes had little or no insulation, inefficient window air-conditioning, and lots of (current) code violations.  After half a century, they’d outlived their usefulness.

Rising in their place — just over the new Hales Road bridge — are handsome 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units.  Designated “moderate housing,” they serve families at or below 60 percent of area median income ($70,680) for a family of 4.

Twenty-five units are reserved for seniors (62 and older), while a 2,000-square foot community center will enhance the neighborhood feel.

Another view of Hales Court.

Some of the houses are already occupied.  Others are still under construction. The banging of nails and clanging of trucks is reminiscent of the postwar building boom, in suburbs across the country.

The new Hales Court homes are closer together than most in Westport.  They lack the stonework, gables, cathedral ceilings and and wraparound porches that are de rigueur these days, even in tough economic times.

But there’s a genuine neighborhood growing again here, right off Hillspoint and Green’s Farms Road.

And, from the looks of things, it’s one that will still be handsome — and home — another 50 years from now.

Grilling The Barbecuers

Like a long cookout, this summer’s controversy over barbecues at Westport Housing Authority properties has simmered for a while — but may once again burst into flames.

A few weeks ago tenants at Hidden Brook, Sasco Creek Village and Hales Court learned of a ban on grills. The reason:  a Sasco Creek fire in July  destroyed 2 trailers.

Residents countered that 1 case of negligence should not result in wide-scale penalties.

A Housing Authority resident recently contacted “06880.”  The email said:

I live in Hales Court.  Well I did, until I was relocated while they demolished the houses and built new ones.  I got a letter from WHA a couple of weeks ago, as did the rest of the people that rent from them, regarding barbecues on the property.  They will no longer be allowed on any property owned by WHA.

There was a meeting with just the residents of Hales Court, and we discussed it.  They have built decks/patios on all the new houses. The Westport Housing says it is a public safety issue.  I said I didn’t agree with them.

They cited an incident that happened in the trailer park on the 4th of July.  A person with a gas grill, but using charcoal in it, had the grill up against the trailer.  Apparently the trailer caught fire and destroyed another trailer.  Luckily no one was hurt.

I grill all the time and have never had a fire.  I don’t know anyone who has.  I understand the standard is a grill must be 10 feet from a building.  Although I’m sure there are some fires, just as there are a million other home accidents.  It doesn’t mean it is a public safety issue.

They went on to point out an explosion with a gas truck, and how horrible that was.  I would say that is a terrible accident, but nothing to do with us.  We are getting new gas lines underground for our new houses — what about the recent gas line explosion in California?  Are we to consider the gas lines unsafe?

You can see where I’m going with this.  There are so many things — candles, stoves, etc.

They invited us to go to board meeting on Monday (Sept. 20, 7 p.m. at Canal Park).  They said they are still deciding.  Of course I plan to speak up, but I don’t want to be considered a troublemaker.

For that reason, the writer asked that I not use his or her name.

First the residents fear their grilling rights will be taken away.

Then they worry that if they speak up, they might lose their homes.

This is a journey down streets of our town that most Westporters seldom see.