Fairfield considers fund to spur affordable housing

December 14, 2017 GMT

FAIRFIELD — The town’s legislative body is considering an ordinance to establish a housing fund that would be used to increase affordable housing opportunities in Fairfield.

“We are woefully in need of quality, safe, aesthetically pleasing affordable housing in Fairfield,” said Representative Town Meeting member Heather Dean, D-3, one of the ordinance’s five sponsors. “To help meet the requirements of 8-30g, our ordinance will create a fund that will collect grants monies available for such purposes as building affordable housing, and allow Fairfield to navigate where and how this building takes place.”

The 8-30g statute was meant to help achieve the state’s goal that 10 percent of the housing in each town qualify as affordable. A developer can invoke the statute if 30 percent of the units qualify as affordable, and specifically that half are affordable to those making 80 percent of the state’s median income and half making 60 percent.

The statute allows developers to skirt local zoning rules in many cases.

Money in the Housing Trust Fund can also come from building department fees, inclusionary zoning fees, monetary gifts, loans, and money from state and federal agencies.

“Fairfield can be active in keeping the balance and harmony of each neighborhood as such, and prevent predator over-development,” Dean said.

“This has been a goal of the Affordable Housing Committee and was one of the action steps enumerated in our Affordable Housing Plan,” Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart said. “It would provide a local source of dedicated funding for affordable housing development.”

Barnhart said the proposed ordinance is patterned after successful initiatives in Darien and New Canaan,

Money from the fund would be available for transfer to any other town account, and any proposed expenditures must first receive the approval of the Affordable Housing Committee and the Community and Economic Development director. If both of those approvals are received, the recommendation is then sent to the Board of Selectmen for final approval.

“Our ordinance had a first run-through at the Legislative and Administrative Committee of the RTM on Monday,” Dean said. “It is still being worked on, with a few minor changes”

According to Dean, the next step is review by the town attorney, before being sent back to the L&A Committee for another look in January. If the charges are agreed upon, it will then be voted out of committee and put forward for the whole RTM to review.

Other sponsors of the ordinance include Moderator Phil Pires, D-4. Josh Garskof, D-5, Karen Wackerman, D-7, and Jill Vergara, D-7.