Editorial in CT POST March 26, 2004
It's highly ironic, absurd really, that a developer speaking against potential building size restrictions in Fairfield early this month said that the regulation changes under discussion would lead to the town losing its colonial appearance. After all, there's nothing colonial at all about the "starter castles," or "McMansions" pick your own derogatory nickname that have been changing the New England landscape for over a decade now.
Supersized homes that seem to occupy every inch of property they sit on have been rapidly replacing much smaller homes in nearly every regional community's already developed neighborhoods. So it's really the popularity of such houses that's led to Fairfield and other municipalities losing their colonial atmosphere, not any proposed size limitations.
These opulent displays of wealth, with more square footage than any family could ever really need, seem to be hated by everyone except the people buying them. Indeed, at the same time as these oversized homes are readily selling, many communities are struggling to place size limits on such construction. One such community is Fairfield, where the Town Plan and Zoning Commission is considering placing height limits on homes.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT POST website]
"It's expensive to live in Bridgeport," said Tanisha Jenkins, a 32-year-old single mother. "I've always worked, but I've gone through two layoffs," said Jenkins, who last year started a new job that pays less than she is used to. Jenkins, who lives with her 4-year-old daughter in a one-bedroom apartment on Charles Street, has worked for nearly a year as a team leader in the patient billing group at Dianon Systems' medical testing laboratory in Stratford.
"There are people who are getting up every day and working they're just looking to be able to keep a roof over their heads," said Carla Miklos, director of family assets for Bridgeport-based nonprofit Family Services Woodfield. In Connecticut, a person needs to earn $18 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. That earned the state the rank of sixth on the list of least affordable states, behind Massachusetts ($22.40); California ($21.18); New Jersey ($19.74); New York ($18.87); and Maryland ($18.85).[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT POST website]
A state agency charged with creating affordable housing is being accused of promoting segregation by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the agency finances too many low-income apartments in already poor and largely minority neighborhoods.
In a state lawsuit, the CCLU argues that the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, which administers a federal tax credit program to encourage the construction of low-income apartments, approves too many proposals in "racially concentrated neighborhoods" that are already overburdened with poverty. Concern over segregated neighborhoods is paramount, lawyers say, in light of the state's obligation to desegregate the Hartford schools through a new settlement in the Sheff vs. O'Neill case.
But the CCLU case could become less relevant. The federal tax credit plan, which has prodded corporations to invest in hundreds of low-income rental apartments in Hartford since 1987, could become less appealing to corporate investors if a tax cut plan proposed by President Bush in January is approved in its current form. Philip D. Tegeler, CCLU's legal director, said the case has merit regardless of what happens to the federal tax credit plan and he is going forward with the lawsuit filed in December. He is less concerned about the future of the tax credit program than with how the state has managed it, he said.
According to the lawsuit, CHFA has approved proposals for low-income apartments with little regard for the neighborhoods. "It's one of the reasons why we have segregated schools in this state," Tegeler said. "It's another example of a government agency that has been supporting the system, but has not taken serious efforts to address the problem of segregation. Our case says they have an obligation to do that under state law." Carol DeRosa, a housing authority spokeswoman, declined comment.
The plaintiff in the case is, essentially, Hartford's Asylum Hill neighborhood, where, over the protests of residents, the housing authority approved corporate tax credits valued at $260,786 in 2001, to build 21 apartments on Huntington Street. The approval came one year after the agency approved $435,867 worth of tax credits to build 45 apartments on the same street. Together, the suit says, the two projects "represent a substantial additional concentration of low-income families."[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]
crisis that now faces Southeastern Connecticut is an echo of the
housing difficulties the region grappled with in the late 1980s.
Now, as then, the region faces
rising home prices, high rents and limited availability.
But there are two important differences.
then had 11,000 more manufacturing jobs. They paid high wages
that enabled people to better afford higher housing costs.
Southeastern Connecticut has
added plenty of jobs since, but most are service jobs that pay far less than manufacturing employment. A result: People are spending a staggering amount of money – for some, up to 70 percent of their take-home pay — to pay for shelter.
The state of Connecticut in the late 1980s spent tens of millions of dollars on housing programs. The state government today spends only 10 percent of what it did on housing a little over a decade ago, housing developers say.
The challenge is daunting.
The area will require the development of an additional 5,100 housing units by 2005 to keep up with demand, according to a recent analysis of conducted by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.
That means the area will need in the next three years as many units as were built in 10 years in the 1990s.
There's little choice about this. Without more affordable housing, people will suffer and the economy will stall.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]
April 5, 2002 - 2002-R-0415 - RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAX COMPARISON
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked for a comparison of the annual property taxes that would be paid on a hypothetical $ 300,000 home in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford and some of their wealthier suburbs based on 2001-02 mill rates. The mill rates used in this report are published by the Office of Policy and Management.
The tables below show the requested comparisons for the three cities and some of their suburbs. The tables assume that the $ 300,000 house is assessed at 70% of market value, or $ 210,000.
Table 1: New Haven and Suburbs
Hypothetical Tax on $ 300,000 House
Clinton 26. 09 5,479
Table 2: Bridgeport and Suburbs
Hypothetical Tax on $ 300,000 House
Westport 17. 20 3,612
Table 3: Hartford and Suburbs
Hypothetical Tax on $ 300,000 House
Catholic Church, one of the state's most influential
institutions, is pursuing a public dialogue that ultimately may
bump up against another central aspect of
Connecticut life: the political sanctity of city and town.
Hoping to make the state's future development an issue of social justice, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford is cobbling together a unique coalition that ranges from business groups to environmental and civil liberties organizations.
of the CenterEdge Project is to educate people about the social
and economic disparities created by the state's long-term
pattern of development, one that has
seen unchecked growth on the fringe of metropolitan areas, while core cities lost jobs and people. The CenterEdge Project has hired a Minnesota firm to produce a detailed series of economic and demographic maps of the state's 169 towns. They show disturbing regional trends, including the spread of child poverty into suburbs to the north and east of Hartford, and rising crime rates in some suburbs even as crime declined in the cities.
With more than 1.3 million Roman Catholics, about 41 percent of the state's population, Connecticut is one of the nation's most Catholic states. A message from the church's pulpits that suburban sprawl contributes to the problems of the cities would carry some weight. Whether that will happen in 2002 remains unclear. Bishop Peter A. Rosazza, honorary chairman of the CenterEdge Project, says he's not sure yet whether the effort will limit itself to education, or move into lobbying for change.
But Rosazza says finding a way to reduce the disparity between cities and suburbs is a social justice issue the church cannot ignore.
Looking out of the window of his office in New Haven, he says, he sees the disparity and wonders what can be done about it. "That's at the basis of it: How can we create an environment for a healthier Connecticut, not only the `environment' in the technical term for that, but also a peaceful one where people's needs are met?" Rosazza says.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]
sHB 5434 (as amended by House "A")*
AN ACT CONCERNING THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING LAND USE APPEALS PROCEDURE
makes several changes to the affordable housing appeals
procedure law. It extends, from three to four years, the length
appeals procedure moratorium a town can obtain. It also extends, by one year, any moratorium in effect on the bill's effective date
(October 1, 2002). By law, a town qualifies for a moratorium by obtaining a certification from the economic and community development
commissioner showing it meets a specific threshold of affordable housing units created since 1990.
also adds deed-restricted mobile manufactured homes and
accessory ("in-law") apartments to the list of affordable
that count toward a town earning an exemption from the appeals procedure. The deed restriction must (1) be recorded on the land record;
(2) last 10 years; and (3) require the units to be sold or rented at prices so that individuals or families, whose income is at most 80% of the
median income, will pay no more than 30% of their income. It requires the commissioner to produce model deed restrictions that satisfy
these appeals procedure requirements.
bill eliminates the owner-occupied requirement for local-option
property tax credits triggered by an affordable housing deed
"A" adds deed-restricted mobile homes and accessory apartments
to the list of affordable housing units that count
toward a town earning an appeals procedure exemption. It also requires the commissioner to produce model deed restrictions that satisfy
the appeals procedure restriction requirements and permits towns to waive deed restriction filing fees.
restores the exemption for affordable housing proposals from
open space, parks, and playground zoning requirements. This
current law unchanged. The original bill made such housing proposals subject to these local requirements.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2002
MOBILE HOMES AND ACCESSORY APARTMENTS
toward an appeals procedure exemption, mobile homes must be
located in a mobile home park, and accessory apartments must
be "legally approved," presumably through local zoning procedures.
The bill defines an "accessory apartment" as a separate living unit that:
1. is attached to the primary unit of a house that has the external appearance of a single-family residence,
2. has a full kitchen,
3. has square footage no greater than 30% of the house footage;
4. has an internal doorway connecting the two units,
5. is not billed separately from the primary unit for utilities, and
6. complies with building code and health and safety regulations.
DEED RESTRICTION CHANGES
Removes Owner-Occupied Requirement for Local Tax Credits
eliminates the owner-occupied requirement for local-option
property tax credits triggered by an affordable housing deed
restriction. Under current law, a town may adopt an ordinance providing such credits to owner-occupants of single-family or multi-family
dwellings who place long-term affordable housing deed restrictions on the dwellings. By law, the deed restrictions must be covenants or
restrictions filed on the land record requiring the dwellings to be sold or rented only to people whose income is 80% or less of the area or
state median income, whichever is less. The restriction must last 40 years and cannot be revoked by the owner or subsequent owner until it
Binding and Recorded Restrictions
specifies that in order to count toward the procedure exemption,
deed restrictions to keep units affordable must be binding and
recorded on the land record.
The bill permits towns to waive any fee that would otherwise be required to file an affordability deed restriction on the town land records.
procedure, a town bears the burden of proving certain facts in
court if a developer appeals its decision rejecting a proposed
affordable housing development. (Normally, developers bear this burden in land-use appeals. ) The procedure applies to towns with less
than 10% of their housing stock in affordable housing, as defined by law. Currently, the procedure applies to 137 towns, with the
remaining 32 towns exempt (because they have at least 10% of their housing stock certified as affordable).
town qualifies for a moratorium each time it adds certain types
of affordable housing units that equal 2% of the total number of
units it had as of the last 10-year census or 75 unit-equivalent points, whichever is greater. A unit-equivalent point is the value the law
assigns to types of units. The lower the income level of the unit's tenant or buyer, the more points are awarded for that unit. For example,
family units restricted for tenants with incomes at or below 80% of median income are awarded one and one-half points each. When the
income level is restricted to 60% and 40% median, the units are awarded two and two and one-half points each, respectively.
referred the bill (File 261) to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding
Committee on April 10, and the committee reported it
favorably on April 17.
Select Committee on Housing
Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference
Planning and Development Committee
Joint Favorable Report
Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee
Joint Favorable Report
Resident Requests Reopening Of Avalon Decision
By Michael C. Juliano firstname.lastname@example.org
week after the Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of
application for a 189-unit condominium complex on Hollow Tree Ridge Road's former D'Addario
property, Darienite and environmental engineer Dot Kelly has submitted to P&Z a letter
requesting another hearing on "Condition BB, contending P&Z had approved the application after
receiving false information on the property.
in December 1998, "Condition BB states "In evaluating this
application, the Planning and Zoning Commission
has relied on information provided by the applicant. If such information subsequently proves to be false, deceptive,
incomplete and/or inaccurate, this permit shall be modified, suspended or revoked by the Commission. As part of her
request, Ms. Kelly said she is requesting another hearing because "the Connecticut DEP Remediation Staff has provided
information indicating that AvalonBay's pond sediment testing and the freshwater compliance levels were incomplete
Ms. Kelly told P&Z, "Based on my description of the
information in AvalonBay's sediment sampling report,
the DEP sediment specialist, Traci Iott, reported that the bottom sediment samples did not meet the minimum solids
content required for sediment samples and therefore should have been reported on a dry-weight basis.
"Poor government can't be fixed by spending money or by shifting the tax burden around," First Selectman Jim Lash said during the meeting in Town Hall. He joined several other officials from Greenwich in protesting a recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Burdens and Smart Growth Incentives. The report recommended reducing dependence on local property tax revenues and replacing it with increased state aid to municipalities. Reliance on the property tax, the report said, forces local officials to encourage development to grow grand lists and increase tax revenue.
Greenwich officials said local government is well-run and efficient in its use of property tax revenues. Greater reliance on other state revenues such as the income tax would reward poorly run local governments. State Rep. Lew Wallace, D-Danbury, co-chairman of the legislature's Planning and Development Committee, attended the public hearing to listen to reaction to the report as part of the committee's effort to elicit comments on the report.
The Blue Ribbon report was issued in October, after over a year of study on the effect of the property tax and ways to encourage "smart growth." Several of the report's recommendations may eventually be proposed as state bills, Wallace said. Those include providing training to local tax and land use decision-makers, creating an integrated view of state development trends by linking geographic information system databases and creating a split-rate property tax, which would tax land separate from buildings so development could be encouraged in some areas and discouraged in others, Wallace said.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Greenwich TIME website]
Several housing authorities in lower Fairfield County think a proposed change in rent standards set by the federal government won't be fair.
Fair market rents, published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, represent the average rent for an apartment and utilities in an area. The amounts would change Oct. 1.
HUD wants to lump the entire county together, instead of separating cities by housing markets -- areas with similar housing characteristics that compete for renters and buyers.
Now that counties will be considered one housing market, average rent standards will decrease in areas with higher-priced housing and increase in areas with lower-priced housing, meeting at the same median price.
For example, according to posted rates, the average rent for a one bedroom is $800 in Bridgeport and $1,200 in Stamford.
HUD's new fair market rent for a one bedroom would be $950, causing the average estimated rates to increase for Bridgeport and decrease for Stamford.
The changes would come at the same time as a proposed $1.2 billion cut to HUD's Section 8 voucher program.
The estimates would affect tenants in the Section 8 and moderate-rent programs by altering eligibility requirements, which depend on the income of each tenant.
The new rents also would decrease the amount of money landlords could collect because Section 8 landlords can't charge more than amounts set by HUD.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Stamford ADVOCATE website]
The Norwalk Housing Authority, which oversees a relatively affluent market, is predicting that it will lose $3 million annually, that local landlords will leave the popular housing voucher program, and that tenants will be left homeless. Under Section 8, tenants pay 30 percent of their gross income toward rent, and HUD pays the private landlord the difference up to the established "fair-market rent." In October, many of those fair-market rents could change dramatically, when counties rather than often-smaller housing markets are used to calculate them.
redistricting, Greenwich, Norwalk and Stamford will be merged
with other Fairfield County communities. The move is expected to
drop fair-markets rent for those and other relatively affluent
communities, while raising fair-market rents in poorer
communities such as Bridgeport. In Norwalk, the HUD
fair-market rent for a one-bedroom apartment would drop from
$1,225 to $950. That's a $275 loss in guaranteed income to the
private landlord participating in the Section 8 program.
Candace E. Mayer, Norwalk Housing Authority deputy director, fears that landlords put in such circumstances will stop taking Section 8 tenants, and recapture their losses by renting to others who can pay $1,225 (see related story).
"It's up to the landlords whether they want to participate in the program. Will landlords continue to participate in the program with the lower rent standards?" Mayer asks. "It's hard to imagine that this will not lead to people being homeless." A HUD spokesman reminded that the redistricting comes at the request of the federal Office of Management and Budget, and remains a proposal, as the department continues to solicit input. Still, HUD is scheduled to implement the redistricting in less than a month. On Oct. 1, fair-market rents are scheduled to be based on counties rather than "cities and towns sharing similar housing and market characteristics," according to the Norwalk Housing Authority.
"The Northeast really doesn't operate on counties," Mayer said. Mayer said 770 Norwalk families participate in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Moderate Rehabilitation Single-Room Occupancy programs. Most are in the Section 8 program; both programs use fair-market rents. Under the redistricting, HUD fair-market rents for Norwalk would drop from $1,225 to $950 for a one-bedroom; from $1,493 to $1,100 for a two-bedroom; from $2,001 to 1,316 for a three-bedroom; and from $2,210 to $1,725 for four-bedroom apartments, if the city is merged with Fairfield County, Mayer said.[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE HOUR (Norwalk, CT) website]