How Wilton plans to aid cost-burdened renters

Changing desnity regulations in Wilton Center is one measure that the town may take to up their affordable housing inventory.

Changing desnity regulations in Wilton Center is one measure that the town may take to up their affordable housing inventory.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Town officials are looking at different ways to create housing opportunities and help residents paying too much on housing.

Nearly 2,000 households, or about 32.8 percent of households in town, are considered “cost burdened,” according to recent census data used in Wilton’s affordable housing plan. A household is considered cost burdened when more than 30 percent of its overall income is spent on housing alone.

The plan, which is included in the Western Connecticut Council of Governments regional one, outlines several steps Wilton looks to take to address this issue.

It includes exploring developing smaller, cheaper and multifamily housing options. It also encourages officials to explore changing density regulations for Wilton Center. Another approach included is providing educational programs for persisting housing issues as a way to create housing opportunities and combat the rates of cost burdened residents.

About 41.1 percent of renters in town are considered cost burdened, while 31.5 percent of homeowners fall in that category, according to the report.

“The Town of Wilton needs greater diversity in its housing stock in order to retain a valuable older population that wishes to downsize, housing to allow young people to stay in the town they grew up in and varied housing types to attract young families and professionals,” Wilton’s draft to WestCOG reads, adding access to public transportation and other services should be factored in.

This applies to both renters and homeowners.

The selectmen passed the draft unanimously Tuesday, sending it to the regional council of governments, of which First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice is acting secretary.

According to Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, towns should be striving for 10 percent of its inventory to be deemed affordable. The state’s Department of Housing tracks towns’ percentages at five-year intervals, most recently deeming Wilton’s housing inventory 3.58 percent affordable in 2020.

Wilton boasts an owner-renter split of 5,255 owner households to 835 renter households. According to the WestCOG draft, the renters “tend to be one or two person households with one in three renters living alone.” Of those renters living alone, 77 percent are seniors over the age of 65, according to the data.

Owner households, by contrast, are typically “four or more person families” with 44 percent of families having “school-aged children” under 18, compared to Fairfield County’s 34 percent.

One measure that could be taken is to explore changing town zoning regulations for permitted residential density in Wilton Center and along Danbury Road. The downtown area is currently at the heart of a master planning process that is anticipated to be completed later this year. Planning and Zoning have also approved numerous multifamily developments along Danbury Road in the past year.

Educational programs would not only inform staff and members of town boards, but residents as well. Collaboration with other local, state and national groups would also be a focus.

The draft also references “developing surplus town-owned properties for small scale affordable housing” as the cost of land in Wilton is “often seen as an obstacle to the creation of housing.”

According to a WestCOG analysis, the population of Wilton is projected to increase by 950 residents over the next decade, hence the town taking steps to provide affordable housing options for current and future residents.