Affordable housing trust fund clears hurdle in Greenwich

Photo of Robert Marchant
Work at Armstrong Court in Greenwich created new affordable townhouse units, part of an initiative to increase affordable housing in the community.

Work at Armstrong Court in Greenwich created new affordable townhouse units, part of an initiative to increase affordable housing in the community.

/ Photo: File / Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

GREENWICH — The town Planning and Zoning Commission has endorsed an initiative to set up a housing trust fund that would be used to increase the range of affordable housing across Greenwich.

The concept of a trust fund was first proposed in 1988 in town, but it failed to gain approval from the Representative Town Meeting.

“We’re hoping it will be acted upon this time,” Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Margarita Alban said at the board’s Tuesday meeting where the housing fund was considered.

Under the proposal, an 11-member board would oversee the fund. Private donations would be collected, and the funds would be parceled to developers, or the town’s own public housing agency, to build more affordable housing units or to renovate units that could be rented below market rates, according to the plan. The town fund could also be matched with state, federal and nonprofit sources of revenue.

Some state lawmakers in Hartford and affordable housing activists have been pushing legislation that would increase affordable housing construction across the state. That has drawn opposition from leaders in Greenwich — and many other towns — who want to take a more localized approach.

In 1989, the state established the 8-30g affordable housing statute, which mandated that every municipality should have 10 percent of its housing formally designated as affordable.

The town is required to file an affordable housing action plan with the state by June 2022. Currently, the town has about 1,250 housing units designated as affordable.

According to the initiative, rent in the affordable units should not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended that the Board of Selectmen move ahead with the trust fund. The proposal would then go to the RTM for approval.

Other municipalities have set up housing trust funds to meet affordability targets, and Greenwich policy-makers looked at similar legislation in Stamford for guidance.

First Selectman Fred Camillo testified at a public hearing before a state legislative committee in March that solutions at the community level are the best to proceed.

“I cannot state in strong enough terms that one-size-fits-all, Hartford-driven mandates that weaken local control of authority is both not needed and potentially very dangerous,” Camillo testified.

Meanwhile, new affordable units are under construction in the west end of town by Greenwich Communities, which was formerly known as the Greenwich Housing Authority. Reconstruction of 42 existing units at Armstrong Court is in the works, and that will be followed by the construction of a new building of 42 units that is slated for late 2021 or early 2022.

There were no public comments on the housing trust fund during the review Tuesday night.