Tag Archives: Westport Housing Authority

Westport Housing Authority: Little-Known Body Has Big Impact

In 1952, the Hales family sold 14 acres of land to the town. The price: $1.

The Westport Housing Authority had been established a few years earlier. For the first time, it was ready to act.

With state financing the WHA built 40 Cape Cods, between Greens Farms Road and Hillspoint. Hales Court helped ease Westport’s severe postwar housing shortage.

In the nearly 70 years since, the WHA has done much more. Hales Court has nearly doubled in size. There are 93 units at Sasco Creek and Hidden Brook, contiguous sites on Post Road East. And 50 elderly and disabled Westporters live at Canal Park, near downtown.

Yet the Westport Housing Authority remains unknown — or little understood — by most Westporters.

The  official name is the Housing Authority of the Town of Westport. Yet it’s not really a town body. It’s independent — “like a water pollution control authority,” says executive director Carol Martin.

As with other housing authorities around Connecticut, the WHA falls under a state statute.

The 1st selectman appoints a board of commissioners. Five members serve rolling 5-year terms.

Beyond that though, there is no link to town government. The housing authority’s money is completely separate too.

Funding comes from federal and state grants, and real estate the WHA owns and manages. Each of its 4 independent properties has its own operating budget. They range from $412,000 annually (Hidden Brook), to $1.1 million (Hales Court).

All 221 units are income-restricted.

At Hales Court, the limit is 60% of the area median income. For a family of 4, that median is about $144,000 a year. So, Martin says, the 78 homes there — most of them 1,700 to 1,800 square feet — are rented by people with quite low incomes, to those earning about $75,000 annually.

Hales Court, after its 2008 modernization.

Hales Court now encompasses 78 units. The WHA modernized the entire area in 2008. The original homes had limited accessibility, and were not in compliance with fire codes.

Working with a development partner, the WHA applied for and received $2 million in 9% low-income housing tax credits — a program initiated by the Reagan administration.

Sasco Creek and Hidden Brook — the front and rear portions of 4-acre 1655 Post Road East, respectively, until the 1990s the site of a trailer park near Stop & Shop — is restricted, variously, to families with 60%, 50% and 25% of the area median income. Most units include 3 bedrooms, and are approximately 1,800 square feet.

Hidden Brook apartments.

The 2 developments were constructed using tax credits, and tax-exempt bond financing.

Canal Park’s studio and 1-bedroom apartments are restricted to people 62 and older, and the disabled (by Social Security definition). It was built in 1981, with federal and state assistance.

Martin — the part-time executive director — is assisted by two full-time “resident services” staff members. Other operations — maintenance work, rent collection, lease enforcement and the like — are contracted out.

“We’ve really elevated our services,” Martin says proudly. “We’ve got cradle to grave — newborns to the frail elderly — and we take care of them all.”

David Newberg chairs the Westport Housing Authority. He and fellow commissioners Thomas Bloch, Jeff Nixon, Kathleen Wauchope and C. Gibson Halloran “understand and support our mission,” Martin says. “They all want to give back to the town.”

Westport Housing Authority director Carol Martin.

The WHA does great — and important — work. They’d like to create even more housing opportunities.

However, Martin notes, the cost of land and zoning regulations limit future expansion.

But the WHA keeps looking for opportunities.

“We help people become more successful — emotionally, socially and financially,” Martin says. ” We’re a friendly partner. We do all the work.”

Even if most Westporters have no idea who — or what — the Westport Housing Authority is.

Pre-Applications Available For Affordable Westport Housing

Earlier today, the town sent out a terse email. Headlined “Local Housing Authorities Are Now Accepting Pre-Applications for Affordable Housing,” it read:

Preliminary applications will be accepted beginning on 06/03/2019 AND END with a postmark date of 06/28/2019. Pre-applications received after the end date as postmarked will be automatically rejected.

Please click on the following link for income-eligibility requirements and a download of the pre-applications: https://millennium-realty.com

It sounded a bit cryptic. Pre-applications for what affordable housing, exactly?

And who is Millennium Realty?

I clicked the link.

The Millennium Group — headquartered in New Britain — has a handsome website. At the top are photos of 4 beautiful residences. Two are homes that would not look out of place in Westport; 2 are gleaming new apartment buildings.

Turns out Millennium Realty (aka The Millennium Group) manages a wide array of properties — including 4 affordable housing facilities in Westport. They are:

  • Canal Park (50 units; elderly; studio and 1-bedroom)
  • Hales Court (78 units; 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom)
  • Hidden Brook (39 units; 1, 2 and 3-bedroom)
  • Sasco Creek (33 units; 2 and 3-bedroom).

That’s 200 units of affordable housing.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

But why “pre-applications”?

Turns out they occasionally open up wait lists, to fill when vacancies occur. “Pre-applications” are used to screen for initial program eligibility.

So for anyone interested in being screened for a possible eventual spot on a wait list for affordable Westport housing: Click on the link above. You can also pick up a copy at the Westport Housing Authority (5 Canal Street), or call 203-227-4672.

Hales Court also offers affordable housing in Westport.

[OPINION] Developer: In Wake Of Hiawatha Court Decision, We Plan 187 Units

In the wake of a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Westport grant conditional approval for a sewer line extension — the first step toward construction of a large housing complex on Hiawatha Lane, off Saugatuck Avenue next to I-95 Exit 17 — the developer in the lawsuit has issued a press release.

Summit Development says:

A 14-year effor to create a moderate-income housing community in the Town of Westport took a major step forward after a State Superior Court judge ordered the town to grant a conditional approval for a sewer line extension to serve proposed new development on Hiawatha Lane in the Saugatuck neighborhood.

In a ruling issued May 7, Judge Kenneth Shluger ordered the town to extend an existing municipal sewer line 1600 feet to serve the proposed development. The judge said the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority has abused its discretion by delaying the extension. The town’s 3-member governing Board of Selectmen serves as the commissioners of the Authority.

The town has maintained that it could not consider extending the sewer because a failing sewer line and related pumping station that would serve the site are inadequate to handle the additional sewage effluent the new housing would generate, and further said that an existing town policy precluded it from issuing conditional approvals.

The developer, Summit Saugatuck LLC of Southport has maintained since early 2016, when it negotiated a joint venture agreement with the Westport Housing Authority to build 155 units, that the town was not only authorized but obligated to issue a sewer extension approval conditioned upon the completion of the sewer and pump station upgrades.

In 2016, the Public Works Department set the schedule for the upgrades, which are now nearing completion. Summit’s property met all the criteria for receiving sewer service, including being within the Sewer District, and that the town’s sewage treatment plant having ample capacity.

Summit’s attorney, Timothy Hollister, said the judge’s decision supports Summit’s position that the town’s interests are fully protected by granting the extension conditioned on the upgrade being completed, and that the town produced no evidence that it has a long-standing policy against issuing conditional approvals. “There is no such policy,” he said.

Felix Charney, president of Summit Development, said: “The judge found that the town has been using the sewer system upgrade as a way of delaying creation of the moderate-income housing that is so desperately needed in Westport. In 2016, the town encouraged us to partner with the Westport Housing Authority and we came up with a great plan for 155 units including 70 moderate-income units. But when we presented the very plan the town had encouraged, the Town Board dropped its support and hid behind the sewer line issue as the way of blocking the development. Now, with the Housing Authority having lost its financing opportunity, we are proceeding on our own.”

Summit’s new proposal: 187 units.

Summit’s revised plan will feature 187 studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with 30 percent for moderate income households having maximum rent and household income restrictions for 40 years. The 8-acre site is centrally located with access to local stores, restaurants and services.  The community will be a transit oriented development (TOD), as it is within easy walking distance of the Saugatuck train station.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has been quoted saying that the court decision will have “very little practical impact on the proposed project’s timetable.”

Charney responds: “For years we have offered compromises, all of which have been rebuffed by the town. We have a great location near the train station, are in a neighborhood where there are other multi-family apartments and are using a classic New England-style architecture that fits beautifully within the community. The real question boils down to whether Westport wants to be an inclusive or an exclusive community?”

He said Summit had offered the town a series of smaller proposals including the one in partnership with the Westport Housing Authority, but the town chose to not commit.“They left us no alternative but to turn to the courts.”

Carol Martin, executive director of the Westport Housing Authority, said the authority supports the private sector developing housing in the town. “We have reached the point where we are no longer accepting additional applicants signing up with us. With approximately 1,000 names already on the list, there’s no point. We applaud private sector developers like Summit who are willing to step in and help to address the huge need we have in Westport.”

Affordable Housing Applications Available Now

For months, Westporters driving on the Post Road near Super Stop & Shop have watched apartments rise on the site of the old “trailer park.”

They’re not done. But applications are now available for the duplex townhouse apartments — all deemed “affordable rentals.”

Hidden Brook apartments.

Hidden Brook apartments.

Monthly rents are $900 (1 bedroom), $1,055 (2 bedrooms) and $1,200 (3 bedrooms).

Applicants must meet income requirements, based on family size, for 50% of the area median income. Click here for more details.

Applications are online (click here), or at the Westport Housing Authority office at 5 Canal Street. You can request an application be mailed to you by calling 203-227-4672.

Applications must be mailed or hand-delivered to the the Housing Authority office at 5 Canal Street, Westport. They will be reviewed in the order they are received. The deadline is July 31.

 

Don’t Take Our Rock!

Alert “06880” reader (and nearby resident) Stephen Rubin writes:

Thanks to the continuing efforts of the Westport Housing Authority, the old trailer park on Post Road East will at long last be replaced with townhouse-style housing.

The long-anticipated new Sasco Creek Housing construction will be similar to the adjacent Hidden Brook homes. These plans will add affordable housing. and improve the entire neighborhood.

However, a price of this project is the loss of the big old rock that kids have played on, used for sunbathing, done homework on and decorated for holidays for decades.

Everyone realizes that the rock must go, but the kids posted a last fruitless plea to keep it. Sorry, but “King of the Mountain” will now be played elsewhere. That’s the cost of progress!

Rock

 

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.