remember that anything on these webpages is unofficial.
Good data source; link here to our other housing page.
SOURCE ON INFO FOR SOUTHWESTERN CT:
Westport meeting on affordable and workforce housing; SWRPA
offices at Stamford Government Center with view of the city and 4th
floor open space off cafeteria. Click on
construction picture (r.) to return to HOUSING page here.
Western Region of Connecticut
2009 - April 14th in Darien - second
Blue Ribbon Commission; -
related $$ Matters;
incentive housing program part of Special Session 2007 ombibus bill 1500 here.
- "Legislative Wrap" for C.B.I.A. June 2014;
- POVERTY - how do you measure it? From the horse's mouth. How about income inequality by metro area?
- post-SWRPA '08 housing summit.
- SWRPA post-regional
update review of housing
strategies for South Western CT; Ideas from Island County, WA.
- More recent articles on projects on the from burner
Stamford (Trump); Stamford
RELEASE: from think tank: http://www.ctpartnershiphousing.com/
- Big grant
to Housing Development Fund, Inc.; role of rental housing?
recent housing study; low-income
housing website: http://nlihc.org/
- Housing Study
by Harvard: http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/finance/03-2_apgar.pdf
- Affordable housing
series in the
PROJECTIONS from University
of CT...following on studies about "The
- City of Stamford's
Affordable Housing "Strategy" here:
- Link here
RIBBON COMMISSION REPORT ON SMART
Housing History...and some interesting news reports
as well as
HOUR series HERE;
link for more background. And a brand
new study, relatively speaking, that has a few good ideas!
rights lawsuits reviving.
- GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS CHAPTER 40R. SMART
GROWTH ZONING AND HOUSING PRODUCTION: http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/gl-40r-toc.htm
- Global study that presaged income inequality argument.
Local politicians speak at 'Legislative Wrap Up' in Westport
By MEAGHAN LATELLA
Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014 7:30 pm
Updated: 11:08 am, Sat Jun 28, 2014.
WESTPORT -- According to a 2013 study conducted by CNBC,
Connecticut ranks 45th on its list titled "America's Top States for
In order to improve the state's economic competitiveness, the
Connecticut Business & Industry Association and its fellow sponsors
have launched a campaign called "CT 20 X 17." Essentially, the campaign
intends to land Connecticut a spot in the top 20 best states to conduct
business in by the year 2017.
Representatives from the CBIA and a number of state legislators
congregated at the Westport Public Library on Friday to discuss the
campaign and to hold a "Legislative Wrap Up," where they addressed the
outcomes of the recently concluded 2014 Connecticut General Assembly
"[The session] was not all that ambitious," admitted state Rep. Jonathan
Steinberg (D-136). "We had a slow approach but I think the focus should
be on opportunity as we go forth. I think that the CBIA has been a
voice of positive focus [on] what are the opportunities in the economy."
In addition to Steinberg, the other legislators on the panel were state
Sen. Toni Boucher (D-26), state Sen. John McKinney (D-28) and state Rep.
Gail Lavielle (D-143).
The most discussed issue at the meeting was the state's struggling
transportation infrastructure. According to the CNBC study
aforementioned, Connecticut ranks 49th in transportation and
infrastructure. Boucher recalled an e-mail she recently received from a
Fairfield County railroad commuter who is "fed up" with the state's
"[The commuter] e-mailed me from the train, and said that 'this is the
fourth time this week that I am standing [on the train] during peak
hours,'" said Boucher.
The commuter went on to tell Boucher that she had put her house up on the market and is planning to move back to New York.
Lavielle concurred with Boucher's concern for the state's
transportation. She said that the session was one of rather limited
action, and she said that simply "playing defense" won't help make the
state more competitive.
"We are in the midst of a transportation crisis," said Lavielle.
Steinberg affirmed Lavielle's claim.
"10 percent of our bridges are in high risk condition at this point," he said.
Another issue plaguing the state concerns education and having enough
skilled workers in the state to fill the state's empty jobs. Steinberg
said the state was one of the hardest hit states during the recession,
and described its economic recovery post-recession as '"slow, but
McKinney highlighted the fact that compared to other states in the
region such as N.Y., N.J., R.I. and Mass., Connecticut is lagging behind
in terms of economic growth and recovery.
"These states have recovered 100 percent of jobs lost during the recession," said McKinney. "Connecticut has not."
One way of ensuring residents are adequately educated is by making early
education more accessible. During the session, the state legislators
passed a bill that will open up more preschool spots throughout the
state. The goal of this initiative is to have an available spot for any
child whose family wants to send him or her to preschool.
"I believe the [income] gap in Connecticut is in education," said
Boucher. "The higher the education [level] you have, the higher your
It does not help that the state has accrued one of the largest amounts
of college loan debt nationwide. Boucher described the college debt
accumulated by Connecticut residents as "historic."
"It's a huge crisis in Connecticut," she said.
All of the legislators stressed that if the state does not begin to see
major improvements in its problem areas, other states and members of the
private sector will be reluctant to conduct business with Connecticut
"We need to do something about [lowering] the cost of doing business in Connecticut," said McKinney.
Bonnie Stewart, the Vice President of Government Affairs for CBIA and
the moderator for Friday's debate, said that Connecticut residents can
do their part by reaching out to their state legislators.
"You can't expect them to know what's important to you without contacting them," said Stewart.
While most of the discussion focused on the negatives of the state's
economy, the legislators urge residents not to give up the fight to make
Connecticut an attractive state to conduct business in. With the
support of its residents and the continued efforts of its legislators,
Connecticut can make big improvements they said.
"A positive approach is the best way to attract business and to retain business," said Steinberg.
"When we work together [in bipartisan fashion], we produce much better results," added McKinney.
Connecticut doesn't rank near the bottom of every list. In fact, the
state ranks 5th in education and 17th in quality of life. Lavielle said
that Connecticut residents need to focus on all that their state has to
offer and use it as motivation to fix the state's biggest problems.
"The state has so much potential."
WIKI RESEARCH GETS "PER PERSONAL"
Chart above top (l) from the same source (ACS) but a private company
massaging the same data - (R) CT is #2 behind D.C. Three of the
top 5 "states" are home of federal bureaucrats and lobbyists. As
we knew, but it is always nice to see confirming data, one of the
reasons places such as Weston, CT are better off than other places is
because of its high rate of "family" households (i.e. all the town has
it its schools and open space).
Connecticut Per Capita Income Still No. 1
Grows 10th Fastest In Country
The Hartford Courant
By MARA LEE email@example.com
10:20 AM EDT, March 28, 2012
Per capita personal income for Connecticut residents increased by 4.9
percent in 2011, faster than the nation as a whole, according to a
preliminary estimate that shows the state remaining in the No. 1 spot,
far ahead of No. 2 Massachusetts.
If the total amount of income were divided equally between every man,
woman and child living in Connecticut, each of us would have received
$56,889 last year.
The estimate could change significantly as more data is collected. Last
year, the initial estimate from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
was that the per capita income was $56,001 in 2010; now the bureau says
it was $54,239.
But even if this estimate is too optimistic, Connecticut is likely to
stay in the No. 1 position among states. Our closest rival,
Massachusetts, has a per-capita income of $53,621 in the early
The total income earned in Connecticut in 2011 has now passed its
pre-recession peak, and grew about as fast as the nation as a whole.
Our per capita income can grow faster than average even as overall
income growth is average because the state's population growth is
slower than average.
Connecticut's per capita income grew 10th fastest in the country, and
was the only state in that top 10 group whose growth was not due to
growth in either mining or farming.
Connecticut's income growth was driven by the rebound in finance and
insurance. Earnings among workers in that industry grew more than 8
percent — 69 percent faster than the national average.
Connecticut's per capita income is more than $15,000 higher than the
national average – last year, it was $14,000 higher than the national
In Connecticut And The Nation, Families
Have An Alarming Lack of Financial Cushion
The Hartford Courant
By MARA LEE
9:39 PM EST, February 2, 2012
When it comes to Connecticut residents' financial health, there are
plenty of reasons to be grateful for our relative prosperity. For
instance, we are more likely to be covered by a pension or have savings
in a 401(k) than people in other states.
But a new report cites a reason for concern: More than a third of state
households, 35 percent, have so little savings that they would be
entirely or almost completely reliant on unemployment checks or Social
Security if they couldn't work. That's lower than the 43 percent
households nationally with no significant savings, according to the
Corporation for Enterprise Development, which released the figures in
its Assets & Opportunity Scorecard. But it's still alarming, the
group said, especially considering the high cost of living in
The figures were based on the amount of income needed to live at
poverty level for three months: $2,700 for single adults, $3,600 for
couples, $4,500 for a family of three and $5,500 for a family of four —
including bank accounts and retirement savings. That's far below the
standard financial advice that it's best to have a cushion of six
months of regular expenses.
Kasey Wiedrich, senior researcher for CFED, a Washington nonprofit that
advocates for better opportunities for low-income families, said even
though job losses don't often drop household income down to zero, the
report "shows how vulnerable families are."
The lack of a financial cushion for people who have jobs may be largely
forgotten at a time when millions of people aren't working at all, but
it's a potential crisis, groups such as CFED say.
Karyn Pitt, of Hartford, said she had never heard of the recommendation
that people keep six months of living expenses in savings. "That would
be kind of hard," she said — and saving three months' living expenses
would be hard for the average person, too.
Chris Konkol of West Hartford said he and his wife have at least six
months of living expenses in cash, but he said, "I feel sorry for those
starting out. How do you get there?"
Konkol has a 24-year-old child living at home who can't find work, and
his 21-year-old son is going to graduate college this year, without
ever having had a summer job. "I don't think it was for lack of
trying," his father said. Fatima Vilar is among the Connecticut
residents in good financial shape. She and her husband own a home in
East Hartford and have at least six months of living expenses in
"You hear how great the pay is here, we're in one of the wealthiest
states, but I don't feel that way. You just have to look around you,
there's so much poverty," said Vilar, who was walking around Bushnell
Park on her lunch break this week. "Even in this park, you see it."
Connecticut residents' pay — including employer contributions to
pensions or 401(k)s — was second only to New York in 2010, according to
CFED, which adjusted the total of salary, bonuses and retirement
contributions for relative costs of living. Federal data show
2010, the average full-time worker in Connecticut made $51,920 in 2010,
not including retirement contributions and some other items — second
Homeownership is also a measure of asset wealth, for the majority of
homeowners whose properties are worth more than their mortgage debt.
And in the CFED report, Connecticut ranked among the worst in the gap
in homeownership between non-Hispanic whites and all others. Whites are
twice as likely to own a house or condo as blacks, Hispanics and Asians
in the state. Only Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts had
gaps of homeownership by race and ethnicity. Pitt, who is black, and
who rents, said that's not surprising.
"There's always going to be a difference there," she said, and she
attributed part of it to people who are poor or working poor wanting to
buy only if they can leave the distressed neighborhoods where they're
"They want to get out of their neighborhood, and it's very expensive to
get into the neighborhood they'd want to get into," she said.
CFED recommends that all states either start Individual
Development Account programs or spend more money on them. These sorts
of programs help low-income people with counseling and matches to their
savings, so they can buy a house, go to college, or start a business.
Connecticut has spent $2.9 million on its IDA program since
2000, which was linked with $1.2 million in private donations and
$900,000 in federal funds. That money has helped more than 974
individuals and families.
Vilar said she thinks the solution to the number of Connecticut
families with virtually no savings is better financial education in
schools. "I believe children, very early in school, should be taught
how to budget money and how to handle money, because they don't always
get [that lesson] from their parents," she said.
FORECLOSURE STORIES HERE.
Personal Income Trend Worst in Nation
Mostly To Blame
The Hartford Courant
By MARA LEE firstname.lastname@example.org
10:07 AM EST, December 17, 2010
Connecticut's personal income — the amount all the state's residents
earned, and collected on investments — fell more than twice as fast
than the country as a whole, the worst performance in the nation, a
government report released Friday shows.
The aggregate income figure for July through September was $199.4
million, down from 199.5 million from April through June. That's not
the amount earned during the period, but the amount the state's people
could expect to make for the whole year if the period's level of
economic activity continued.
Investment income was the major drag on the state, with $220 million
less collected in stock dividends, interest and rent compared to the
previous quarter. The value of stocks rose sharply during the quarter,
So this is mostly a reflection of what's happening with the very
Earnings were down by .02 percent on the whole, with the biggest drop
coming in finance and insurance. Health care wages grew the most, as
the sector continues to add jobs. Manufacturing wages were second,
partly from hiring, but mostly from a return to overtime pay.
Finance earnings also fell in New York, but even with the drop, finance
earnings are 11 percent higher in Connecticut than they were in the
first three months of the year.
NS affordable housing plan to get
hearing; North Stonington wrestles with
issue of preserving town's rural character
By Claire Bessette
Published 11/30/2009 12:00 AM
Updated 11/30/2009 07:43 AM
North Stonington - For the past two years, town officials and residents
have debated how to increase affordable housing in town while
preserving the town's rural character.
That debate will be renewed Thursday, as the Planning and Zoning
Commission holds a public hearing on plans for an 84-unit housing
development on Route 2 that includes 56 apartments designated as
affordable housing. The hearing is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Town
Hall, but would be moved to the North Stonington Elementary School
multipurpose room if a larger room is needed.
The Meadowcourt development, proposed by V&M Construction, Inc. of
Westerly, calls for 56 deed-restricted one-bedroom affordable
apartments, 14 two-bedroom market rate apartments and another 14
second-story studio units above the two-bedroom apartments. The complex
would also include a 6,000-square-foot community center that would have
space for a farmers' market and convenience grocery store.
The 7.3-acre project would fall under the state law that governs
affordable housing in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing
stock is deemed affordable. North Stonington has less than 1 percent.
According to the law, the town has limited review authority over
affordable housing projects, said Juliet Leeming, North Stonington
senior planner and zoning enforcement officer.
But she called the V&M proposal "a friendly 8-30g," referring to
the number of the state statute.
Leeming said the developers have worked with town officials during
workshops and in presenting preliminary plans, including a model of the
proposed project, to try to alleviate concerns.
The 14 housing buildings would be arranged around a central square
meadow or green. The community center building would be in front of the
green and would face Route 2. Leeming said the original proposal called
for the apartments to face Route 2 but the commission asked that they
be arranged around the green.
"It complies with a lot of our regulations, except the density,"
Leeming said of the project.
V&M has applied for a zone change to place the property in an
affordable housing development overlay zone and also seeks accompanying
zoning text amendments to govern the zone. The commission must vote on
the project based on health and safety issues, Leeming said.
North Stonington faced a similar proposal in late 2007 with the
controversial 408-unit Garden Court affordable housing development on
Boom Bridge Road. The commission rejected that plan and the developers
appealed the decision in superior court. The economic recession
intervened, and the plans and lawsuits were withdrawn.
But the controversy got town officials thinking about affordable
housing and they formed the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. The
committee has submitted a report outlining ways the town can improve
its affordable housing stock.
Marilyn Mackay, the committee secretary, issued a press release last
week that personally endorsed the Meadowcourt project. Mackay said the
project makes sense for the town in that it provides a mixture of
affordable and market rate units and a commercial component that could
boost the town's agricultural base.
Mackay is a strong supporter of creating a year-round farmers' market
that could house freezers and coolers to allow the sale of dairy
products and even fish from the Stonington docks.
Mackay called the Meadowcourt project unusual in that it calls for 66
percent affordable housing rather than the state guideline of 15
"If qualified affordable housing stock does not soon become a town
reality, we will see the likes of another 400+ apartment complex forced
upon our town," Mackay said. "Except for health or safety reasons, we
cannot prevent it."
But First Selectman Nicholas Mullane, said he is worried about the
development density, traffic and storm water runoff. He said the town
should require the developers to post a performance bond on the
proposed on-site septic system to protect against possible failure in
"I'm concerned about the project," Mullane said. "The density is
significant, and there's an awful lot on eight acres of land."
Reverse mortgages growing in popularity, right choice for some
By Lisa Chamoff, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/08/2009 02:43:36 PM EDT
More than a year ago, Dee Lewis was struggling to afford her escalating
property taxes, plus pay the mortgage on the small Glenville farmhouse
where she's lived since 1982.
Lewis, now 64, had been considering a reverse mortgage, which allows
senior citizens to tap into the equity of their homes, providing them
access to money without the burden of monthly payments. The loan is
repaid when the borrower sells the house or dies. Last April,
Lewis took the plunge, becoming one of a growing number of people to
take advantage of the government-backed program.
Last month nationwide, there were 9,830 reverse mortgages endorsed by
the Federal Housing Administration, which insures most of the loans.
That's up from 9,484 loans endorsed in July of last year, according to
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In March, there
was a national monthly record of 11,261 FHA-endorsed reverse mortgages,
a jump of 17 percent from the same month in 2008.
Lewis borrowed about $230,000, a portion of which went toward paying
off her mortgage and car. If Lewis were to sell her house now, she
estimates she would owe about $200,000.
"If I pay both my property tax and my mortgage, I would have a couple
hundred a month to live on," said Lewis, who works as a cook at
Greenwich High School. "I really felt I didn't have any other option."
D. Steve Boland, senior vice president and reverse mortgage executive
for Bank of America, said lenders have recently seen an increase in
popularity in reverse mortgages because people's retirement accounts
are losing money and people want to maintain their standard of
living. Also, as part of the economic stimulus package, the
lending limit for reverse mortgages was increased from $417,000 to
$625,500 through the end of 2009.
"Before, it was considered a last resort," Boland said. "Now, it's part
Sara Cornwall, a Southport-based reverse mortgage specialist with Wells
Fargo, said some people are taking out reverse mortgages to wait out
the sluggish real estate market. In order to qualify for a
reverse mortgage, a borrower must be 62 or older, the home must be the
person's primary residence and they must own the property outright, or
pay off the existing mortgage with the proceeds from the loan.
Borrowers have four options, used in
any combination, when taking out a reverse mortgage: They can take the
money in a lump sum; get fixed monthly amounts for a set period of
time; receive funds in equal monthly allotments for as long as at least
one homeowner lives in the house; or have access to a line of credit.
Senior advocates say some people shy
away from the program because they want to leave their home to their
children. Lewis, a divorced mother of two adult daughters, said her
children were supportive. In fact, Lewis' younger daughter lost her job
earlier this year and moved back home, which she couldn't have done if
Lewis had downsized to a one-bedroom condo. Lewis had considered selling the house,
which was valued at $1 million.
"I wanted to be there for my
children," Lewis said. "In hindsight, I did do the right thing. Given
the economy right now, if I had waited and put my house on the market,
it wouldn't have been a good time."
There are also high closing costs
involved, which include title insurance, attorney fees and an
appraisal. They vary according to the value of the home, and can range
from $15,000 to $18,000. Lewis's loan included $17,000 in fees. The Federal Housing Administration, which
insures most reverse mortgages, mandates that interested seniors
receive financial counseling from a HUD-approved agency before getting
Should someone owe more than value
of home at end of the loan, the FHA insurance covers that gap. Richard
Fisher, an attorney who works in the elder law and estate planning
field for Cacace, Tusch & Santagata in Stamford, said seniors
should explore their alternatives, such as getting a home equity loan,
which doesn't have the high fees of a reverse mortgage and generally
has lower interest rates, or selling the house and moving to a smaller
One concern is that some financial
professionals have been aggressively marketing investments to seniors
for their reverse mortgage proceeds, such as deferred annuities, that
are inappropriate for many older people because they tie up retirement
savings, but Fisher said none of his clients have run into that.
Christina Crain, director of
programs for the Bridgeport-based Southwestern Connecticut Agency on
Aging, has worked with seniors who have taken out reverse mortgages,
and advises people to take a close look at their situation before going
"I think people really need to do
their homework, go and talk to multiple lending sources and do their
own research," Crain said. "I think the important thing is people ask a
lot of questions and know all the costs up front."
Reverse mortgages can be good for
seniors who want to stay in their homes, and don't have family members
to help financially support them, Crain said. But, they're not for
everyone, such as seniors who want to leave their home -- without the
burden of paying off the loan -- to their children or grandchildren.
The loan also could affect a person's eligibility for need-based
programs, such as Medicaid.
"It's really a personal decision,"
Crain said. "I think it is a good option for some people. I think
people should at least explore it as an option because for some people
it could be a way to remain in their homes and get the resources they
ready, but housing rules are changing
By Jenna Cho
Published on 8/1/2009
Old Saybrook - Armed with a map, a
new set of regulations and updated design standards, Old Saybrook
stands at the ready for any affordable-housing applications that may
come its way.
Old Saybrook adopted Incentive
Housing overlay zone regulations on July 20, and with it, design
standards to guide future developments under the zone. In doing so, the
town was the first in the state to take advantage of a 2007 state law
that provides towns with cash incentives for establishing
affordable-housing friendly zones.
INCENTIVE HOUSING ZONE
Its purpose is to encourage affordable
housing in both residential and business districts that have the
transportation connections, nearby access to amenities and services,
and infrastructure necessary to support concentrations of development.
The IHZ seeks to avoid sprawl and traffic congestion by encouraging a
more vibrant residential component to business or mixed use areas to
sustain a lifestyle in which residents can walk or use public
transportation to reach jobs, services, and recreational or cultural
SOURCE: OLD SAYBROOK INCENTIVE HOUSING
ZONE REGULATIONS, EFFECTIVE AUG. 17
But the whole incentive portion of
the 2007 state law now stands in question in light of a state budget
”The money is limited,” said Jeffrey
Beckham, undersecretary for legislative affairs at the state Office of
Policy and Management. “We need to figure out how to apportion the
money that we have left.”
Towns were encouraged to create
Incentive Housing zones with the promise - or at least, pending the
availability of funds - of $2,000 per affordable unit that could be
built in such a zone upon adoption of the new regulations. OPM also has
incentives for towns to get help writing the regulations, and later,
for building permits obtained for new affordable housing projects.
The $2,000-per-unit calculation will
be reduced to a yet-undetermined smaller incentive, Beckham said.
Towns can reapply for state review
once OPM has reconfigured its incentive pay schedule, Beckham said.
Until then, the state won't review any applications for Incentive
Housing zones, including those of Wallingford, filed in April, and Old
Saybrook, filed in May.
In all, 35 towns in the state have
initiated the process of creating Incentive Housing zones, said Dimple
Desai, community development director at OPM.
housing at Ferry Point
Unlike Wallingford, which according
to Town Planner Linda A. Bush plans to wait for state review before
adopting its Incentive Housing regulations, Old Saybrook has chosen to
proceed without state approval.
”At the town level, we know that
what we're doing is quality work,” Old Saybrook Town Planner Christine
The town was also mindful of local
nonprofit HOPE Partnership's interest in building a 14- to 16-unit
affordable-housing complex in town under Incentive Housing regulations.
The project, which would be developed on town-owned land at 45 Ferry
Road, is closely tied to First Selectman Michael Pace's push for
“attainable” housing to diversify housing options in Old Saybrook.
Developing affordable housing under
the town's terms became more than just a vision when the town purchased
a 5.4-acre parcel of land from the state in January and proposed using
the land for housing and recreational needs. Ferry Point, where the site is located,
is the first area the town has designated as an Incentive Housing zone.
The town plans to build a multi-use ball field next to the complex.
HOPE, which would build and manage
the 32-bedroom complex, is awaiting wetlands approval and plans to
apply for zoning permits in the fall, said Maryann Amore, HOPE's
executive director. Amore
applauded the work of town staff and officials to develop the new
regulations and ensure the Incentive Housing Zone was in place so HOPE
could move forward with its project.
The Incentive Housing Zone promotes
affordable-housing developments in areas that can accommodate such
housing - areas where business and residential units can co-exist and
residents can have easy access to public transportation. Housing developments under the zone must
set aside at least 20 percent of their units as affordable units. Those
units must cost the dweller 30 percent of their annual income or less,
according to OPM's Housing for Economic Growth Program.
In creating the zone, the Old
Saybrook Zoning Commission approved three things: regulations that
dictate what uses are allowed in the overlay zone; design standards
that specify how new developments in the zone should look; and a new
zoning map that includes the town's first Incentive Housing zone, at
the Ferry Point neighborhood, Nelson said.
Without the Incentive Housing Zone,
towns without 10 percent of their housing stock designated as
affordable face the possibility of a developer forcing an
affordable-housing project on the town, Amore said. That's because all the developer would
have to prove under state affordable-housing laws is that the project
won't harm public health or safety, she said. The town would have no
say on how the project looked or where it was built.
”This law has more thoughtful,
integrated planning for the town,” Amore said. “It just gives the towns
a lot more control.”
CHFA Head Says Junk
Mortgages' Effects Persist
By Anthony Cronin
Published on 6/30/2009
A housing official said Monday that effects of the subprime mortgage
mess are still reverberating throughout the state's economy, but he
held out hope that revved-up state and federal programs will be able to
revive Connecticut's housing market.
Timothy Bannon, president and chief executive officer of the
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (www.chfa.org) in Rocky Hill,
told a housing symposium sponsored by Liberty Bank that “we know how
the mess that we're in today began.”
Subprime lenders began to flood the housing market in late 2004, said
Bannon, “offering loans that seemed too good to be true - and that's
exactly what they turned out to be.”
Bannon said the “house of cards” subprime lenders created has been
falling ever since. “They took advantage of the dream of homeownership
and turned it into a nightmare of financial destruction and family
destitution,” he told those attending the symposium at The Water's Edge
resort in Westbrook.
He said subprime lenders concentrated their loans in lower-income
neighborhoods with lower education levels. “The subprime lenders ...
purposely took advantage of people who had too little education, too
little experience and too much hope. They stole their money and they
dashed their dreams,” Bannon said.
The housing official told those attending the bank forum - from
affordable housing experts to bankers and municipal officials -that the
impact of unscrupulous subprime lenders were not problems of their
making, but they have impacted the banking, lending and municipal
The Rocky Hill-based CHFA works with lower income or disadvantaged
borrowers, and its typical borrower makes less than $65,000 annually.
Almost 40 percent of its borrowers are female heads of households. “But
we make - you make and we buy - good loans,” he said of his agency.
Bannon congratulated Liberty Bank's financial performance this past
year as well as its stellar lending reputation. “Liberty Bank is a
Connecticut success story,” he added. Between 1992 and 2008, Liberty
has originated nearly 600 CHFA loans totaling nearly $67 million. This
past year, the Middletown-based mutual savings bank - the state's
oldest - was among the housing agency's top 20 loan originators.
Bannon said several new federal housing initiatives, as well as new
programs from Fannie Mae, the giant mortgage lender, are helping to
restore some stability in the state's, and nation's, wobbly housing
He said his agency is working through numerous initiatives, including
the CT Families mortgage-loan refinancing program, to help borrowers
delinquent on their adjustable rate mortgages, along with the Emergency
Mortgage Assistance Program that provides financial assistance to help
homeowners meet their monthly housing expenses.
Bannon also said free mortgage counseling provided by CHFA and a
judicial mediation program are helping homeowners. He said these
programs have made possible nearly 19,000 repayment and loan
modifications to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
on the issue...
affordable housing needs
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/14/2009 07:53:16 PM EDT
DARIEN -- U.S. Congressman Jim Himes
on Tuesday addressed the need for affordable housing in the region's
small and medium-sized towns.
Himes, D-Conn., was the keynote
speaker at a housing summit sponsored by the South Western Regional
"If we don't get this right, we will
have a foundational virus that will erode the vitality of this region,"
Himes told a Town Hall audience of about 70 affordable housing
advocates from across Fairfield County.
While larger state cities such as
Stamford and Bridgeport have made inroads in building affordable
housing, small and middle-sized towns have typically run up against
community resistance to various forms of below-market-rate housing.
Meanwhile, the lack of affordable housing options has been cited by
businesses as an impediment for moving into the region.
Himes, a former affordable housing
advocate, said that "political reality" in those communities made
low-income housing -- targeted at individuals making less than 60
percent of the median income -- extremely difficult to achieve.
Smaller municipalities, he said,
should instead focus their efforts on building housing for seniors and
workers forced to commute there. He suggested looking at opportunities
to develop land owned by local housing authorities as well as
rehabilitating foreclosed homes. Himes stressed that the emphasis
should be on downtown housing, close to transit hubs.
Based on the comments afterward
from several affordable
housing advocates in the audience, smaller communities often fear
increases in density.
But Gordon Joseloff, Westport's
first selectman, noted that mindset may very well be changing, as the
recession affects a broader swath of residents who can no longer afford
living in their homes.
"These economic times might be the
economic opportunity to change people's mind," he said.
says affordable housing obligation met
By Debra Friedman, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 03/29/2009 06:04:18 PM EDT
Town officials said they believe an obligation to build more affordable
housing stemming from its 1989 purchase of the former Cos Cob Power
Plant property has been met.
"We've gone back and looked at some of the work that has been done,"
said Town Attorney John Wayne Fox. "We are satisfied that over the last
several years we have more than met our obligation in terms of housing
and in terms of what we perceive to be the intent of that statute."
In 1989, Greenwich promised to build 24 affordable housing units in
exchange for the 9-acre property, which it bought from the state for
only $1. While initially the deal required the town to build the units
on the property, concerns about toxins from the once-coal burning power
station as well as the proximity to the Metro-North railroad resulted
in a new agreement. The revised 1997 agreement required the units to be
built elsewhere in town.
The decade-old issue came to the forefront after Greenwich resident and
housing authority commissioner Bernadette Settelmeyer presented a
letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission in January asking what had
become of the town's obligation to build the units.
Town officials largely ignored the issue since 1997, with most of the
discussion about the property centered around creating a park on the
land, which has been cleared of petroleum and other toxins.
Settelmeyer could not be reached for comment Friday.
Fox said that town role in funding additions at Hill House on Riverside
Avenue and the Pathways facility on East Putnam Avenue, as well as
renovations to Parsonage Cottage on Parsonage Road has satisfied the
Hill House is an affordable housing community for low- to
moderate-income seniors, while Pathways is a nonprofit organization
that helps people with mental illness. Parsonage Cottage provides 40
beds to the elderly and is run by the Greenwich Housing Authority.
"We think we have more than complied with the spirit and the letter of
the law," said Fox.
First Selectman Peter Tesei said although he believes the requirement
has been met, town officials will meet with members of the state's
Department of Economic and Community Development.
"We want to review with them what the town experience has been with
affordable units over the last several years and get clarification on
what the requirement is," said Tesei. "It's still exploratory is in
terms of understanding what the requirement is. Several administrations
have looked at this and we want to bring closure to the issue."
Although the town believes the requirement has been met, town officials
said they will continue to strive to find more opportunities to build
additional affordable housing to meet the state's affordable housing
At least 10 percent of housing stock needs to qualify as affordable
under state guidelines. The town's inventory of affordable housing is 5
percent, according to a 2008 state analysis.
Tesei said there have been private talks about incorporating more
affordable housing units in the future.
Experts lament lack of starter homes,
say state must act
By Ted Mann
Hartford - Economists, state
officials and housing experts convened Thursday morning to confront one
of this state's most nagging dilemmas: a dearth of affordable housing,
particularly for younger workers, that puts a serious drag on
At the forum, co-sponsored by
the nonprofit Partnership for Strong Communities and the state
Department of Economic and Community Development, experts largely
agreed that the state must do more to encourage the development of
affordable housing to spur growth in the state work force and to keep
in-state some of the residents who are currently departing in droves -
namely young, college-educated adults.
”The younger you are,” said Andrew
Sum, a labor economist from Northeastern University, “the more likely
you are to have left.”
Multiple studies have shown that the
failure to provide affordable housing, either for purchase or rent, is
a major impediment to long-term job growth, said Bruce Blakey, an
economist and the former chief forecaster for Northeast Utilities.
Connecticut residents spend an
average of 47.6 percent of their income on rent and utilities, the
seventh-highest such percentage in the nation, Blakey said.
The data was provided as a number of
groups push for policies to encourage more housing development. Blakey
provided figures showing that construction of 500 starter homes - at a
cost of $262,500 - would produce 950 jobs per year and more than $60
million in disposable income.
But the obstacles to making such
growth sustainable are serious ones, panelists warned, not least the
price at which a family or individual in Connecticut can expect to find
a starter home.
”The data is incontrovertible that
housing is a stimulus to the economy,” said Robert Kantor, the New
England director for Fannie Mae.
But cost is a problem, he added,
when the state's median income hovers around $65,000 annually.
”Sixty (thousand) into $260,000 is
four-plus, and that's totally unaffordable,” Kantor said.
- best presentation by Dr. Lapp (second from the left), who
reminded everyone of how housing and population data relate to the
meaning of "Our Town."
Westport Affordable and Workforce Housing
Public Meeting, Monday November 24, 2008
A proposal to develop the Baron's South property for 72
units of housing (51 elderly) has been making the rounds, spearheaded
by the First Selectman of Westport. E-Newspaper coverage below.
Meeting in the large auditorium at Westport Town Hall was well attended
- members of the various Westport
Commissions and Boards in the audience. Sharp questions
Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com
EARLY STORY (photo on right)
First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff (r) and other officials
tonight discussed the town’s conceptual plan for senior and workforce
housing on the Baron’s South property. The session followed a similar
presentation last week at the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
Joseloff said he welcomed the public’s comments and suggestions and
would be meeting with Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members,
neighbors, and others who want to hear about the proposal and offer
South Housing Plan Unveiled
By James Lomuscio
Posted 11/24 at 11:28 PM
Robert Corona of Foxfire Lane called the conceptual proposal to
construct 104 affordable housing units on the 23-acre, town-owned
Baron’s South property “environmentally irresponsible.
“If you’re a tree in Westport, Connecticut, you are an endangered
species,” Corona said.
Gavin Anderson, the next to speak at tonight’s presentation and public
hearing at the Town Hall auditorium, countered that the plan “was a
good use of the land,” and minimally invasive.
“All the big trees are still going to be there,” Anderson said. “The
plan maintains a great deal of open space.
“Philosophically, I feel it is right,” he continued. “We have to
recognize the changing demographics of the town.”
And that is that the town is graying, and seniors who may not want or
need large, single-family homes with high taxes are seeking
alternatives to stay in town.
There is also the fact that many who work in town, from municipal
employees to those employed at local businesses, need affordable
The problem? Statewide, Westport, with median home price of $1.3
million, ranks third as least affordable community following Greenwich
and New Canaan.
And if Westport doesn’t increase its affordable housing stock to 10
percent, the town could be ripe for a developer to sue, bypassing local
zoning regulations, and put in huge, multi-family housing units.
Currently, the only existing, below-market rate senior housing are the
50-unit Canal Park, which has a three to five-year waiting period, and
the 36-unit Saugatuck School.
These points were reiterated throughout the evening as First Selectman
Gordon F. Joseloff and members of his volunteer, Blue Ribbon panel
hosted a presentation titled, “Baron’s South: An Opportunity for Senior
& Workforce Housing.”
Joseloff plans to ask the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission in 2009
for a statutory requirement called an 8-24 for the project.
In addition to Joseloff, tonight’s panel members included: Laurence
Bradley, director of the Planning and Zoning Department; Second
Selectman Shelly A. Kassen; Carol Martin, director of the Westport
Housing Authority; Floyd Lapp, executive director of the South Western
Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA); Terry Giegengack, assistant director
of Human Services; Michele Frye, planning assistant; and Rick Redniss,
principal of Redniss & Mead, which helped develop the conceptual
plan for the project
“It’s a conceptual plan, and nothing is set in stone,” said Joseloff.
“We need to talk.”
Joseloff stressed that the plan—which calls for 74 rental units of
senior housing and 30 units of workforce housing—would have “minimum
impact on the land and minimum impact on neighbors.”
He also said that the project would be financed by private, federal,
state funding, “so there will be minimum impact on our economy.”
According to Kassen, 51 one- and two-bedroom senior units would be
constructed in a building next to the Westport Center for Senior
Activities, which opened almost four years ago, and another 23 units
would be built through the renovation and expansion of the property’s
The mansion and the property had once belonged to the late Baron Walter
Langer Van Langendorf, the founder of Evyan Perfumes.
The workforce housing, which would be set on a ridge, would consist of
26, two- and three-bedroom townhouse units, Kassen said, and another
four units through the renovation of four small houses on the property.
“It’s a beautiful piece of property, and I hope you take that into
consideration as you are siting it,” said Stan Witkow of Foxfire Lane.
“I’m not a NIMBY (not in my backyard), and it certainly seems like
something the town needs,” he added. “I just hope it doesn’t spoil the
Bradley insisted that the project is designed to have the least
environmental and aesthetic impact, adding that it would even utilize
roads already on the property.
Alluding to Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” which ran in film form
at the Westport Country Playhouse last week in tribute to Paul Newman,
SWRPA’s Lapp said that the multigenerational towns of yesteryear are
disappearing as seniors struggle to stay in their homes.
Meanwhile, he said 40 percent of the workforce commutes out of the area
and the local 25- to 54-year-old workforce can no longer afford to live
in the town.
“These are demographic dangers,” he said.
According to town housing survey results, approximately 60 percent of
Westport’s seniors are considering moving due to the desire to downsize
and the burden of property taxes, as well as health issues.
As he left the public hearing, Harold Levine, who said he spent many
days walking the property as chair of a Baron’s South land use
committee after the town bought the property in 1999, seemed bullish on
“It’s right for the town, and it will happen,” he said.
Rell: Towns Will
Receive Help Planning Affordable Housing
By LORETTA WALDMAN | The
11:35 AM EST, November 11, 2008
The Capitol Region Council of
Governments, a regional planning agency representing Hartford-area
municipalities, has been awarded federal assistance to develop
responsible growth strategies for affordable housing, Gov. M. Jodi Rell
CRCOG will receive direct technical
assistance valued at approximately $45,000 from a team of national
experts organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rell
said. The largest of the state's 15 regional planning agencies, CRCOG
has long been a proponent of the environment, social, and economic
benefits of smart growth and will use the funds to enact "incentive
housing zones" that encourage affordable housing development. CRCOG
requested EPA assistance with technical policy analysis and public
participation processes to develop and promote model smart growth
regulations that include provisions for incentive housing zones in
rural, suburban, and urban areas in the Capitol region.
"This assistance will help Hartford
area towns promote a regional approach for combating sprawl," Rell
said. "By developing zoning regulations based on responsible growth, we
will be able to promote more affordable housing options in the greater
Other communities receiving the
funding are Miami-Dade, Florida and New York City. Connecticut
Communities represented by CRCOG are: Andover, Avon, Bloomfield,
Canton, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield,
Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartford, Hebron, Manchester,
Marlborough, Newington, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor,
Suffield, Tolland, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor and
One of the recommendations to come
out of Rell's Responsible Growth Task Force last year was to develop
models of smart grown zoning regulations that could be used by
Connecticut's municipalities and regional planning organizations.
"If left unchecked, sprawl will
continue to chop up the landscape and impair our ability to remain
economically competitive," she said. "Responsible development ensures
that we protect valuable natural resources at the same time we take
important steps to grow and strengthen our economy."
More information about the
communities receiving EPA smart growth technical assistance: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/sgia2008.htm
Island of Lost
Published: November 2, 2008
As the financial crisis crisscrosses the globe, mutating as it goes, it
is important to remember the brownfield of bad American home loans that
are its ground zero. The view is ugly, the effects dire and the need
for solutions just as urgent whether you look in the stucco foreclosure
tracts of Phoenix and Southern California, the condo-boom cities like
Miami — or a birthplace of the suburban American dream, Long Island.
Long Island’s two counties, Suffolk and Nassau, are first and fourth in
the number of loans at risk of foreclosure in New York State. Long
Island was not supposed to be hit this hard, because of its affluence,
highly desirable housing stock and relative lack of room to sprawl. But
for lots of reasons distinctly its own, it was highly susceptible to
the toxic fallout of the subprime bubble.
Long Island now has two housing crises, an acute new one laid over a
chronic old one. The old one is a severe shortage of housing for
regular people, in a market pathologically skewed by racial segregation
and not-in-my-backyard resistance to responsible development.
Housing in the land of Levittown, the national symbol of affordable
starter homes, has for years been out of reach to young couples and the
working class. Thousands of Long Islanders of modest means, from young
professionals to immigrant day laborers, are crowding into illegally
subdivided single-family houses. Demographers have documented an exodus
of people who grew sick of living in their parents’ basements, while
retirees rattled around in empty nests, cash-poor but property-rich —
at least until the mortgage meltdown.
For all that, there are few legal rental units, and efforts to build
higher-density “smart growth” developments have been vigorously, often
rabidly, opposed by communities wedded to the single-family house
behind the white picket fence. McMansions have been eating up the
island’s dwindling open space and farmland, while its downtowns and
infrastructure wither from age and neglect.
To top it off, the island remains one of the most segregated suburbs in
the country, designed from the days of its earliest tract homes to be a
haven of white aspiration. For years, African-American homeowners were
shunted to tightly bounded neighborhoods that became self-perpetuating
pockets of poverty with severely underperforming school districts.
It is little wonder that within Long Island’s dysfunctional housing
market, where more than half of residents spend more than 30 percent of
their income on housing, the lure of easy credit was irresistible.
Mortgage lenders cajoled the elderly to plunder their equity, people in
heavily minority areas like Hempstead Village, Amityville and Brentwood
lined up for the subprime express, investors snapped up homes for
illegal rentals, and trader-uppers in richer ZIP codes dived in over
Advocates who had struggled to get poor people into housing realized a
few years ago that things were moving too fast. Peter Elkowitz, chief
executive of the Long Island Housing Partnership, said people at the
group’s home-ownership workshops would sometimes bristle at being told
what they could not afford and take their business to storefront
brokers who offered no-income-verification loans and the false promise
that home values would keep rising forever.
Now it is all crashing down. The ranch homes have plywood picture
windows, and front lawns sprout billboards for foreclosure auctions.
The disaster is particularly acute in black and Latino communities,
where subprime loans were advertised heavily. The Empire Justice Center
found that the three Suffolk communities with the highest foreclosure
risk — Amityville, Brentwood and Central Islip — are home to a full 30
percent of the county’s African-American homeowners. Nassau’s three
hardest-hit areas — Hempstead, Freeport and Elmont — are home to 42
percent of its black homeowners.
The county executives of Nassau and Suffolk, Thomas Suozzi and Steve
Levy, have ramped up services like debt counseling to keep the next
wave of troubled homeowners from defaulting when their adjustable-rate
mortgages reset next year. But the counties are struggling to keep
their own budgets right-side-up in a wretched economy. New York State’s
deficit is mountainous, and Mr. Levy and Mr. Suozzi expect to get
hammered on aid from Albany, even as their own sales taxes and
property-transfer taxes dwindle.
Crime is not up yet, but homelessness and hunger are. So is blight:
town and village officials have their hands full keeping lawns mowed
for a glut of abandoned houses. The bottom-feeders are out: “We Buy
Houses,” read the light-post fliers in poor neighborhoods, offering
fast cash for troubled homes. Brokers who shamelessly peddled subprime
loans to unqualified buyers are now offering, for thousands of dollars
in fees, to fix people’s credit, convert their loans and negotiate with
lenders — the same thing nonprofit groups do at no charge.
This disaster was caused by a torrent of bad loans, but there has been
only a trickle of the money and leadership needed from Washington,
where the focus has been on bailing out banks before homeowners. At a
training workshop at the Long Island Housing Partnership in Hauppauge
last week, representatives of Citibank met with nonprofit groups to
explore ways to repair mortgages so that families can keep their homes
for the life of the loans, and not simply postpone inevitable
The emphasis was on realism and honesty in a world that jettisoned
both. Participants agreed that a solution as big as the problem had not
yet been devised. Lenders, homeowners and advocates are stuck with
straightening out a colossal mess, one bad loan at a time.
study here that has some good ideas!
Funds could make
foreclosed houses into homes
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/26/2008
02:48:49 AM EDT
STAMFORD - Amid a spike in
foreclosures, the city is eyeing an opportunity to ease the crisis and
prepare for the next generation of low- and moderate-income homeowners.
A federal program allows eligible
communities to buy foreclosed homes and resell them as affordable
housing targeted to individuals who earn less than 120 percent of the
area's median income. In Stamford, that figure translates into $140,000
In July, Congress passed a bill that
included nearly $4 million in emergency federal funding for distressed
regions nationwide. Of that amount, $25 million was allocated to
Connecticut by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment.
Stamford is one of 10 state
municipalities vying for a slice of the state award. Other cities
include Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury. HUD has mandated
that all proceeds be divided according to need.
The city expects to submit an
application to the state as early as January.
Mayor Dannel Malloy is cautiously
optimistic about the city's chances. Compared with Bridgeport and New
Haven, Stamford has had fewer foreclosures.
"I think we can make a case," Malloy
said Friday, referring to seeking funds. "But someone else is going to
decide if it's a good case."
One advantage for the city is its
ability to quickly identify foreclosures, said Tim Beeble, director of
the city's Community Development Office. Housing records at the town
clerk's office are computerized in Stamford, making the task of
identifying foreclosed homes easier. Those records are not available on
computer in Bridgeport. Of the 134 properties in Stamford that
have gone to foreclosure since Oct. 1, 2006, 76 are owned by banks,
according to the Community Development Office. Officials there are
working to identify homes voluntarily transferred to banks by owners
instead of going through foreclosure proceedings.
In all likelihood, the city would
not own the properties. Instead, it would transfer ownership to
nonprofit agencies such as New Neighborhoods Inc. that have experience
in developing and rehabilitating housing for low- and middle-income
families, Beeble said. On
Friday, Beeble and his staff looked at about eight foreclosed homes in
the Cove and a dozen on the West Side. From the outside, they looked
for signs of life, peering through windows and checking tags on meters
to see whether the electricity had been turned off.
The federal program aims to revive
or sustain existing communities. And Friday, Beeble kept his eyes open
for properties that had an impact on the surrounding homes.
"Is the house clearly vacant, with
overgrown grass? Is there blight bringing down the rest of the
neighborhood?" Beeble said about signs of problems.
Although Stamford may not be
selected to receive funding, the program has excited affordable housing
advocates, including Kathleen Walsh, president and chief executive
officer of the Stamford Partnership. Upon hearing about the HUD
allotment, she contacted Beeble. If all goes as planned, Walsh's
organization would enlist local neighborhood associations to help the
city identify buyers.
"This is just one tool, but it's not
a perfect tool," Walsh said. The program would not help people facing
foreclosure, for example.
"But it will prove to be an
effective tool in renovating homes and getting them reoccupied," she
said. "It will be good for the individual, as well as good for the
Article Last Updated: 07/02/2008 12:59:53 AM EDT
Sales of single-family homes in Fairfield County plunged by 44.55
percent between May 2007 and May 2008, and prices statewide fell more
than 10 percent during the same period. The Warren Group, a
Massachusetts-based real estate and banking industry research firm,
said Tuesday there were 468 single-family homes sold in Fairfield
County in May 2008, compared to 844 sold in May 2007. The median
price those sales brought in Fairfield County in May 2008 was $545,000,
a 13.15 percent decline from $627,000 in May 2007.
"You've got economic gravity working against you," said Vincent Valvo,
group publisher of The Warren Group's trade journals.
He said Fairfield County enjoyed some of the highest rise in prices and
highest number of sales for several years, but now the buyers aren't
there. The median single-family home price in New Haven County
dropped from $265,000 in May 2007 to $250,000 in May 2008. Sales were
off 14.75 percent.
The Warren Group's report said Fairfield County's decline helped drive
down the statewide median price of a single-family home from $305,000
in May 2007 to $272,000. Despite a collapse in prices — the
percentage levels are comparable to declines in 1992 — the median price
for a home in Connecticut remains out of reach for many potential
homebuyers, Valvo said.
In the early 1990s, housing prices fell in the state after years of
overbuilding and a decrease in buyers in the wake of a large number of
Today, it's the lack of credit that's driving down prices and sales,
Valvo said. Lenders are not only reviewing borrowers' histories
more closely but are also requiring down payments, usually of 10
percent, he said.
That means to buy a $500,000 house, Valvo said, a buyer would have to
be able to come up with $50,000 for a down payment. That doesn't
include the $10,000 to $20,000 in legal fees, inspections and other
costs that pile up as part of the transaction, he added.
Young couples just can't come up with that kind of money, Valvo said,
so there are fewer consumers with the means to buy.
The statewide median is also high.
According to the U.S. Federal Housing Administration's mortgage
calculator, a person would have to make $73,000 a year to qualify for a
mortgage to cover the state median price for a single-family home
bought in May. This is based on a mortgage rate of 6 percent with
little outstanding debt. FHA recommends the monthly mortgage payment
should not exceed 36 percent of income after subtracting for other
debts and needs.
The median income in Connecticut, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,
was $63,422 in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available.
Only in Windham County is the median sale price affordable for someone
making the state's median income.
Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist of New Haven-based DataCorps
Partners, said the real estate market, like the state and national
economies, is a mix of good and bad news.
"It depends on which side of the equation you're on," Klepper-Smith
said of falling prices. If you've already got your house, this is
terrible news because your equity is being eaten up. If you don't have
a house, it means you might finally get one you can afford.
Even though prices and sales fell at the highest rate since 1992,
Klepper-Smith and Valvo said Connecticut's economy is in much better
condition than it was then. Connecticut gained jobs in May. That
wasn't the case in 1992, Klepper-Smith said, when Connecticut lost
162,000 jobs in a recession. So this is an economic storm the
state can weather, Klepper-Smith said.
Condominium sales were likewise down in Connecticut in May.
According to The Warren Group, sales of condominiums fell from 1,338 in
May 2007 to 854 in May 2008. The median sales price of a condo in
Connecticut was $200,000 in May 2008, compared to $208,500 in the 2007
period. The median price for a condominium in Fairfield County
declined from $329,000 in May 2007 to $322,500. The number of sales
dropped from 448 to 230 during the same period. The price for a
condominium in New Haven County was unchanged from a year ago, at
Prices Plunge In May
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN |
Courant Staff Writer
10:54 AM EDT, July 1, 2008
The decline in the median
sales price of single family houses in Connecticut gathered increased
momentum in May, plunging by nearly 11 percent percent, the biggest
drop since 1992 when the state was digging out of a deep recession.
The number of sales tumbled more
than 24 percent in May, continuing a slide that is now in its third
year, according to the Warren Group, which tracks housing markets in
The report provided fresh evidence
that the state's housing market, while not seeing the declines of
harder hits states such as California and Florida, is still struggling
with tighter credit making it tougher to get a mortgage and rising
foreclosures that pull down the value of homes in surrounding
Many economists say the housing
downturn nationally -- and in Connecticut -- isn't likely to bottom out
until well into 2009.
The state's median sales price,
where half the sales are above and half below, was down 10.8 percent,
to $272,000, from $305,000 a year ago. Hartford County fared better
than the state as a whole, with median prices slipping 4 percent, to
$234,900, from $244,900 a year ago. Sales in Hartford County plunged
nearly 23 percent.
"Clearly, this downturn is showing
no signs of relenting, and without a pickup in sales, it could be more
severe than the last one," said Timothy J. Warren Jr., chief executive
Affluent Litchfield and Fairfield
counties took the brunt of the price declines.
In Litchfield County, the median
sales price of a single family house plunged 17 percent in May to
$250,000, from $302,000 a year ago. Sales plummeted nearly 31 percent.
Fairfield County saw the median
sales price fall 13 percent in May, to $545,000, from $627,500 a year
ago. Sales plummeted 35 percent.
Only one county, Tolland, showed a
gain in May, rising 6 percent, to $267,500, from $252,250 a year ago,
even as sales fell 21 percent.
affordable housing projects win approval in Stamford
By Magdalene Perez, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/30/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
STAMFORD - The row houses at 178 Ludlow St. in the South End are
peeling, warped and boarded up. But, if all goes as planned for
nonprofit developer New Neighborhoods Inc., in about two years, 50
affordable apartments could be raised in their place.
The Ludlow Place project, which would include a cluster of colorful
five-story townhouses, is one of two nonprofit affordable housing plans
the zoning board approved last week. The other, organized by Habitat
for Humanity, will construct an eight-family residence on a vacant
corner of West Main Street.
Both groups plan to help modest-income people become home-owners, some
for the first time. The projects demonstrate the fast pace of
in the South End and other neighborhoods as the city uses policy to
encourage affordable housing development.
"The whole place is looking like a transformation from what it used to
be," said Cladric Davis, 56, a former South End resident. "It seems
like some progress is going to take place."
The Ludlow street apartments are at the center of the South End
transformation. They are next door to a granite plant and two blocks
from the shiny offices and immaculate lawn of Harbor Park. To the
north, Antares, a Greenwich developer, plans to build an office,
housing and retail complex on more than 80 acres.
New Neighborhoods said it hopes to sell all 50 of the apartments as
affordable housing. That means buyers who earn less than 80 percent of
Stamford's median income, or about $93,600 for a family of four, are
eligible, said Ross Burkhardt, president and chief executive officer of
The group would like to see at least 50 percent of the homes go to
those with an income from $45,000 to 75,000, Burkhardt said. There is
no minimum income requirement, although potential buyers must be
"reasonably" able to secure financing from a bank.
"We've made a commitment to the neighborhood that our project in the
South End is going to be affordable home ownership," Burkhardt said.
"Our objective is really try to help support people who are having a
hard time finding housing in Stamford."
New Neighborhoods still needs to secure financing for the project, so
it could be as long as two years before it is finished, Burkhardt said.
State grants and money donated from for-profit developers in lieu of
creating affordable housing elsewhere are two potential sources.
the West Side, the Habitat for Humanity project will complete the
redevelopment of a block where the Mutual Housing Association of
Connecticut unveiled 19 affordable condominiums in 2003.
Those who would like to become homeowners through Habitat for Humanity
must earn less than 50 percent of the area's median income, or about
$58,500 for a family of four, said Arthur Blanchard, president and CEO
of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County. The program
requires new homeowners to work 500 hours of "sweat equity" before they
buy the homes at a 0 percent interest rate.
Three applicants have been selected for the West Main Street address,
Blanchard said. Construction should begin by the fall, and the project,
depending on the number of volunteers, is expected to be finished next
Many more applicants are expected than there is space. Once applicants
are vetted, New Neighborhoods likely will hold a lottery to select
applicants, Burkhardt said.
Elizabeth Kemp of Bridgeport experienced the benefits of gaining a home
through the Habitat program.
When Kemp moved to Connecticut from Mississippi a few years back, she
stayed with her parents and four children in a cramped two-bedroom
condominium in Norwalk. Now, she lives in a 1,340-square-foot
"Going from that to where we are now is a blessing" said
Kemp, 47. "It really is a big difference for us. It's improved our
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: June 23, 2008
“Owning a home lies at the
heart of the American dream.” So declared President Bush in 2002,
introducing his “Homeownership Challenge” — a set of policy initiatives
that were supposed to sharply increase homeownership, especially for
Oops. While homeownership rose as the
housing bubble inflated, temporarily giving Mr. Bush something to boast
about, it plunged — especially for African-Americans — when the bubble
popped. Today, the percentage of American families owning their own
homes is no higher than it was six years ago, and it’s a good bet that
by the time Mr. Bush leaves the White House homeownership will be lower
than it was when he moved in.
But here’s a question rarely asked,
at least in Washington: Why should ever-increasing homeownership be a
policy goal? How many people should own homes, anyway?
Listening to politicians, you’d
think that every family should own its home — in fact, that you’re not
a real American unless you’re a homeowner. “If you own something,” Mr.
Bush once declared, “you have a vital stake in the future of our
country.” Presumably, then, citizens who live in rented housing, and
therefore lack that “vital stake,” can’t be properly patriotic. Bring
back property qualifications for voting!
Even Democrats seem to share the
sense that Americans who don’t own houses are second-class citizens.
Early last year, just as the mortgage meltdown was beginning, Austan
Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who is one of Barack
Obama’s top advisers, warned against a crackdown on subprime lending.
“For be it ever so humble,” he wrote, “there really is no place like
home, even if it does come with a balloon payment mortgage.”
And the belief that you’re nothing
if you don’t own a home is reflected in U.S. policy. Because the I.R.S.
lets you deduct mortgage interest from your taxable income but doesn’t
let you deduct rent, the federal tax system provides an enormous
subsidy to owner-occupied housing. On top of that, government-sponsored
enterprises — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks —
provide cheap financing for home buyers; investors who want to provide
rental housing are on their own.
In effect, U.S. policy is based on
the premise that everyone should be a homeowner. But here’s the thing:
There are some real disadvantages to homeownership.
First of all, there’s the financial
risk. Although it’s rarely put this way, borrowing to buy a home is
like buying stocks on margin: if the market value of the house falls,
the buyer can easily lose his or her entire stake.
This isn’t a hypothetical worry.
From 2005 through 2007 alone — that is, at the peak of the housing
bubble — more than 22 million Americans bought either new or existing
houses. Now that the bubble has burst, many of those homebuyers have
lost heavily on their investment. At this point there are probably
around 10 million households with negative home equity — that is, with
mortgages that exceed the value of their houses.
Owning a home also ties workers
down. Even in the best of times, the costs and hassle of selling one
home and buying another — one estimate put the average cost of a house
move at more than $60,000 — tend to make workers reluctant to go where
the jobs are.
And these are not the best of times.
Right now, economic distress is concentrated in the states with the
biggest housing busts: Florida and California have experienced much
steeper rises in unemployment than the nation as a whole. Yet
homeowners in these states are constrained from seeking opportunities
elsewhere, because it’s very hard to sell their houses.
Finally, there’s the cost of
commuting. Buying a home usually though not always means buying a
single-family house in the suburbs, often a long way out, where land is
cheap. In an age of $4 gas and concerns about climate change, that’s an
increasingly problematic choice.
There are, of course, advantages to
homeownership — and yes, my wife and I do own our home. But
homeownership isn’t for everyone. In fact, given the way U.S. policy
favors owning over renting, you can make a good case that America
already has too many homeowners.
O.K., I know how some people will
respond: anyone who questions the ideal of homeownership must want the
population “confined to Soviet-style concrete-block high-rises” (as a
Bloomberg columnist recently put it). Um, no. All I’m suggesting is
that we drop the obsession with ownership, and try to level the playing
field that, at the moment, is hugely tilted against renting.
And while we’re at it, let’s try to
open our minds to the possibility that those who choose to rent rather
than buy can still share in the American dream — and still have a stake
in the nation’s future.
Rise in Renters
Erasing Gains for Ownership
By RACHEL L. SWARNS
Published: June 21, 2008
WASHINGTON — Driven largely by the surge in foreclosures and an
unsettled housing market, Americans are renting apartments and houses
at the highest level since President Bush started a campaign to expand
homeownership in 2002.
The percentage of households headed by homeowners, which soared to a
record 69.1 percent in 2005, fell to 67.8 percent this year, the
sharpest decline in 20 years, according to census data through the end
of March. By extension, the percentage of households headed by renters
increased to 32.2 percent, from 30.9 percent.
The figures, while seemingly modest, reflect a significant shift in
national housing trends, housing analysts say, with the notable gains
in homeownership achieved under Mr. Bush all but vanishing over the
last two years.
Many of the new renters, meanwhile, are struggling to get into decent
apartments as vacancies decline, rents rise and other renters
increasingly stay put. Some renters who want to buy homes are unable to
get mortgages as banks impose stricter standards. Others remain
reluctant to buy, anxious that housing prices will continue to fall.
The confluence of factors has largely derailed what Mr. Bush called
“the ownership society,” his campaign to give millions of people —
particularly minority and lower-income families — a shot at
homeownership by encouraging lenders to finance more home purchases.
“We’re not going to see homeownership rates like that for a
generation,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s
Economy.com, a research company.
For many minority and lower-income families who viewed homeownership as
a stepping stone to building wealth and passing it on to their
children, the transition from owning to renting has been the unraveling
of a dream. Burdened now by debt and bad credit, some of these families
are worse off than they were before they bought.
“The bloom is off of homeownership,” said William C. Apgar, a senior
scholar at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University
who ran the Federal Housing Administration from 1997 to 2001. “We’re
seeing more dramatic growth in renters and a decline in the number of
owners. People are beginning to understand that homeownership can be a
very risky venture.”
Mr. Apgar said the Joint Center had predicted an increase of 1.8
million renters from 2005 to 2015, given expected population trends.
Instead, they saw a surge of 1.5 million renters from 2005 to 2007
alone. In the first quarter of this year, 35.7 million people were
renting homes or apartments, census data show.
“Even though we’re only looking at a short period, these trends are
pretty powerful,” Mr. Apgar said.
Mr. Zandi said he believed that minority and lower-income homeowners
had been hardest hit. Nearly three million minority families took out
mortgages from 2002 to the first quarter of this year, housing
officials say. Since minority families were more likely to receive
subprime loans, economists believe these families account for a
disproportionate share of foreclosures.
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said that officials had hoped the
homeownership gains would stick. “We’re disappointed that conditions in
the housing market didn’t allow those gains to be sustained,” he said.
“But we’re optimistic that they can return.”
The new renters include people like Tina Williams, a 43-year-old
medical assistant who lost her three-bedroom colonial in Cleveland to
foreclosure in March after her adjustable rate mortgage spiked and she
struggled to find work.
Ms. Williams slept at a homeless shelter and at the homes of friends
after five apartment complexes rejected her, citing her bad credit and
history of foreclosure.
Finally, someone offered to rent her the third floor of their house.
Her new $300-a-month rental has a bedroom, a living room and a
bathroom, but no kitchen.
“People say, ‘Tina, how are you living?’ ” said Ms. Williams, who has
cobbled together the semblance of a kitchen with a microwave, a
minirefrigerator and an electric frying pan.
“I say, ‘I’m living on God’s grace and mercy,’ ” said Ms. Williams, who
had dreamed of passing on her first home, bought in 2001, to her two
“My daughter says I’m living in a hole in the wall,” she said. “But I
can eat every day. I have a roof over my head. When I found this place,
I started shouting for joy.”
Nationally, rents have increased about 11 percent since 2005, when
homeownership rates started to decline, though that growth is slowing,
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2005, vacancy rates for
rental properties in Cleveland hovered around 10 percent, according to
the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association, which represents landlords in
the Cleveland area. Today, the rate stands at 5.2 percent.
Christopher E. Smythe, the association’s president, said the collapse
of the housing market had improved the economic climate.
“Our apartment traffic is up, people are renting again and occupancies
are up,” he said in a letter to members this year.
In other places, like Los Angeles, the slump in the housing market has
begun to push up vacancies as condominiums are converted into rentals,
according to Raphael Bostic, the associate director at the Lusk Center
for Real Estate at the University of Southern California.
But those new apartments are often out of reach of struggling families.
And since many owners of rental properties are also going into default,
the foreclosure wave has resulted in fierce competition for affordable
apartments in some cities.
In Rhode Island, 41 percent of the state’s foreclosed properties are
multifamily dwellings, which would most likely have housed tenants, a
recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition concluded.
“We’re seeing the displacement of tenants at the same time that we’re
seeing former homeowners enter the rental market,” said Raymond
Neirinckx, a coordinator at the Rhode Island Housing Resources
Commission, which handles housing policy.
Meanwhile, some people who have lost their homes find that landlords
view them with suspicion.
Steve Allen, 51, a Vietnam veteran in Seattle, was repeatedly rejected
when he and his wife, Lesa, started searching for an apartment this
month. Some apartment managers said no because they had lost their home
to foreclosure. Others said their credit scores were too low.
Debbie Suber, 46, who lost her home in Cleveland last year, said she
and her husband were lucky to find a landlord who was willing to
consider their income, not their credit scores. “By the grace of God,
that’s why I have a place,” she said.
Times are also tough for renters hoping to buy. Banks have tightened
mortgage standards, insisting on good credit scores, proof of income
and sizable down payments. Lez Trujillo, the national field director
for Acorn Housing, a nonprofit group that helps lower-income families
get mortgages, said a third of their applicants ended up with houses
just a few years ago. Now, it is one in 10, she said.
Barbara O’Leary-Hatfield-Liberace, a 68-year-old retiree and an Acorn
member, encountered such difficulties when she and some friends decided
to buy a $340,000 house in Seattle.
The mortgage company they consulted said they needed to clean up their
credit and come up with a $45,000 down payment, money they do not have.
So on most nights, when Ms. O’Leary-Hatfield-Liberace thinks about her
dream house, she reaches for the rosary that she keeps under her
“I pray a lot and hope to heck we’ll win the Lotto,” she said.
plans changes to vouchers
By Angela Carter, New Haven Register
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Proposed changes to federal
fair market rent standards could send rent prices down for subsidized
units in New Haven and some surrounding towns, while communities along
the Shoreline and in Naugatuck Valley could see prices rise.
The U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development has released its fair market rent projections for
fiscal 2009 year, which starts Oct. 1. The agency is accepting public
comments on the proposed changes through Aug. 1...
Through its Housing Choice Voucher
Program, commonly referred to as the Section 8 program, HUD covers rent
— with utilities included — for privately owned apartment units. Some
property owners who rent out single-family houses also accept HUD
Subsidized public housing units are
owned by housing authorities, not private landlords.
New Haven County is one of 368
counties across the country that might see prior boosts to fair market
rents reverse moderately, partly because of successful efforts to
geographically deconcentrate the areas where housing voucher holders
live, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a
Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for affordable housing.
Jeffrey Freiser, executive director
of the coalition’s affiliate, the Connecticut Housing Coalition, said
that as rents continue to rise in the private market, families with
vouchers that decline in fiscal 2009 could have a tougher time finding
“Someone with a Section 8 voucher is
limited by the FMR (fair market rent) in the units they can secure,”
Freiser said. “A lower FMR means there are fewer apartments available
The fair market rent for a
two-bedroom apartment in New Haven would go down from $1,142 per month,
with utilities included, to $1,101 per month under HUD’s projections.
That would also apply to rental
units in 14 surrounding towns.
“Costs keep rising, so it’s not good
news,” said Douglas Losty, president of the Greater New Haven Property
Landlords, he said, are facing
rising insurance and utility costs and tax increases.
But heading east along the
Shoreline, rents would rise. In Clinton, Killingworth, Old Saybrook and
Westbrook, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment would
increase from $1,064 per month to $1,104 per month.
In the Naugatuck Valley towns of
Ansonia and Seymour, and in the city of Milford, a two-bedroom unit
would jump from $1,075 per month to $1,113 per month.
Kristine Foye, spokeswoman at HUD’s
New England regional office, said rent projections are based on the
U.S. Census Bureau American Housing Survey, and random telephone
surveys of renters in the FMR statistical areas.
“The rents are based on households
who have moved into their units in the past 15 months,” she said.
The fair market rent rates also
apply to HUD’s Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program, which
provides rental assistance for homeless people.
Town pays the
price for limited housing options
By Martin B. Cassidy,
Article Launched: 06/10/2008
01:00:00 AM EDT
Scarce affordable housing for public
employees is costly for the town, according to the United Way of
Greenwich. It costs
taxpayers millions of dollars in extra salary, creates high turnover
and cuts into education and other town services, according to a newly
released housing study by the charitable agency.
"The lack of affordable and diverse
work force housing options jeopardizes the quality of life and key
services that Greenwich residents value," the study said. "It could
ultimately transform a community that values its cultural and economic
diversity into a homogenous town accessible only to the wealthy."
The study of the town's 5,545
employees showed that 67 percent of them live outside of town and spend
an average of an hour and a half commuting to work, adding to traffic
woes and increased automobile pollution throughout the region. Cathy Delehanty, president of the
Greenwich Education Association, which represents town teachers, said
the lack of affordable housing affects every town employee. Although she was happy the problem was
getting attention, she said it was hard to envision that the town could
create large amounts of affordable housing with land values being so
"The type of salaries we are earning
do not allow us to avail ourselves of the housing in town," said
Delehanty, of Stamford. "I'm happy that they are looking for
Having nonresident employees is
costly, too, with the town paying an average $12,896 in extra salary per worker each year compared with
those in similar jobs in other Connecticut towns. The incremental price
tag is almost $18 million annually.
United Way Executive Director
Stuart Adelberg said the town can use a range of strategies to tackle
the problem of affordable housing for its workers, including incentives
and requirements for developers that have worked elsewhere. Strategies could include inclusionary
zoning, regulations that require developers to set aside a certain
number of units for lower-income tenants and density bonuses, which
allow developers to build more units in return for adding affordable
housing units to their projects.
"There are a lot of affordable
housing developers who would love to come into this community but are
unable to because of the economic reality," Adelberg said.
Other conclusions and statistics in
the study include:
* While Greenwich employees earn more
than their counterparts around the state, a lack of affordable housing
in town forces many employees to move on when they tire of making long
commutes, the study said.
* The average town employee uses 455
gallons of gasoline driving to and from work each year, costing about
$6.8 million (at $4 per gallon) for the town's 3,743 out-of-town
* Those 455 gallons translate into more
than four tons of carbon dioxide per non-residential employee emitted
into the atmosphere, the study said.
A 2006 community-needs assessment by
the United Way identified affordable housing as a critical need for the
town. Adelberg said
the agency also was completing an addendum of the study looking at
communities that have successfully used zoning regulations and other
strategies to broaden their stock of housing, including Stamford and
Montgomery County, Md. Hopefully,
the study will spur more organized efforts to create affordable housing
in Greenwich, Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149th District, said after the
Floren said Stamford is an example
of a community that has used density bonuses and other zoning changes
to spur the development of affordable housing.
"We need a plan and coordination and
accountability to get this done," Floren said. "We know for a fact that
this is a pressing need."
Housing summit wants affordable housing
April 30, 2008
Once frustrated, area property developers are hoping the state will
hand out affordable housing subsidies faster and more efficiently than
Developers have long bemoaned the slow pace of claiming state money;
the two agencies that handle the funding require separate applications
and operate on different schedules. A document in its draft stages
would consolidate the process by combining applications to the
Connecticut Housing Finance authority and the state Department of
Economic and Community Development.
"I hope it's the beginning for an ongoing, stronger and more unified
approach to how we do affordable housing development in the state,"
said Diane Randall, a finance authority board member and president of
Partnership for Strong Communities, an advocacy group for housing
Randall was the keynote speaker at a summit on affordable housing
Tuesday in Stamford, hosted by the South Western Regional Planning
Agency (SWRPA). The summit aimed to encourage more developers and
municipalities to build affordable housing.
"We're trying to present to them financing that's available to them and
projects they can do," said Benjamin Henson, regional planner for SWRPA.
Affordable housing is available to families whose annual income is less
than 80 percent of either the state or area's median income, whichever
is lowest, and costs no more than 30 percent of that family's earnings.
Under state statutes, cities and towns should designate 10 percent of
their dwellings as affordable, but there is no penalty for failing to
do so. In Fairfield County, only Norwalk and Stamford have met the
requirement, Henson said.
Subsidies are an essential piece of affordable housing, because
otherwise the cost of construction is just too great, said Larry
Kluetsch, executive director of the Mutual Housing Association of
Southwestern Connecticut. The nonprofit agency is the developing
partner for Wilton Commons, a proposed affordable housing facility for
But Kluetsch and other area developers said the path to sufficient
funding is lengthy and adds unnecessary costs.
"As a taxpayer it ticks me off, and as an affordable housing provider
it makes my life miserable," he said at the conference.
Kluetsch in a later interview lauded the new applications for funding,
but said the toughest part of the deal is actually getting the money in
hand. It often takes years, he said, but could not explain why.
Construction usually starts before the money is in hand, but meanwhile,
interest rates raise the cost.
"It would be great if we don't have to pay interest on the construction
loan," Kluetsch said.
A representative for the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority was not
available for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Because of the slow funding process, affordable housing costs 20
percent more to build in Connecticut than in other states, said Kenneth
Olson, president for POKO Partners, the developer of Wall Street Place
"The longer you make me wait to get through the process, the more
expensive it is and the harder it's going to be to make it affordable,"
Homeless ejected from bridge area
April 23, 2008
group of homeless people living under a bridge on Cross Street were
awakened at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to the sound of bulldozers revving and
state Department of Transportation workers ordering them to leave.
people who had been living under the bridge for the past two to five
months were evacuated, a resident of the squatter community said.
not all the squatters were willing to go.
Tuesday afternoon, two Norwalk police officers were sent to the area
because a man and woman remained.
just got up. I was woken out of a dead sleep," said the man, who asked
not to be identified. "They were like storm troopers."
man said he had been living under the bridge since the winter and that
he was ordered to leave by Norwalk police officers on April 11.
woman, who also asked not to be identified, is a Norwalk native. She
said most of the group left Tuesday morning. With tears spilling down
her face, she looked out over the deep tracks left in the mud by the
shelters are full, so there's no place to go," she said. "They just
came down here and bulldozed everything and said, 'You got to move.'
Where am I going to go tonight? That's my main concern. What am I
supposed to do tonight? Walk the streets? Hide?"
homeless group had stockpiled canned goods, containers of water,
stuffed animals, tents and a mattress, most of which were cleared away
by DOT workers after the area under the bridge was bulldozed, she said.
homeless woman said she had been bringing food to the bridge for her
companion before she too became homeless and joined the group herself.
been here for only a couple of weeks," she said. "My father died three
and a half weeks ago, and he was sick, so prior to that he lost the
house because he couldn't pay on the mortgage. I've been homeless now
for two weeks."
Tim Sheehan said he was sent there to speak to the pair because the DOT
had called and reported they were loitering.
just told them they had to go because they were on private property,"
to police spokesman Lt. Paul Resnick, the Norwalk Police Department
contacted the DOT a few weeks ago because the bridge and the area under
it are state property.
pair said they had done nothing wrong, and the man asked the officer if
he could have lunch before clearing away a tent he had managed to
can't even sit here. We are not hurting anyone. We aren't doing
anything wrong. This is so not fair," the woman said. "Do you think I
am here by choice? I have nowhere else to go."
did not know whether police had received any complaints about the
squatters from the community. A manager at a restaurant and bar
adjacent to the bridge said he has seen the group there during the past
two months when parking his car.
never bothered anyone," he said. "I actually kind of felt good that
they were there. I think their presence there keeps the crime down in
the parking lot because people can see them, and they are less likely
to break in to cars."
Johnson, an employee at the Norwalk Emergency Shelter, said the shelter
had been crowded all winter, but that the crowded conditions are
lessening. He said the
has never turned people away during his time there.
would be space available for (the squatters)," he said. "Even when we
are full, we have an overflow section where we put people for whom
there is not space in the regular shelter. We put mats and things for
them to sleep on down."
repeated efforts, the DOT did not return phone calls for comment.
float away," the man said, describing the way the onrush of thawing
water would take his possessions. "Now it's all gone."
Area rents are tops in
By Monica Potts
Article Launched: 04/08/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
Stamford and Norwalk have the most expensive rents among metropolitan
areas in the United States for the second year in a row, according to a
national affordable housing advocacy group.
The study, released yesterday by the National Low Income Housing
Coalition, found that the hourly wage required to afford a market-rate,
two-bedroom apartment in the Stamford and Norwalk area is $31.58,
nearly double the national average and about five times the federal
minimum wage of $5.85 an hour and four times the state's minimum wage
of $7.65 an hour.
In a preface to the study, U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., wrote
that the crisis in the housing market should not distract from the
problems low-income renters face.
"Affordable housing opportunities, both homeownership and rental
housing, help to stabilize families and strengthen communities," Dodd
wrote. "Unfortunately this year's report . . . shows that the gap
between the wages of low-income Americans and their housing costs
continues to widen."
Nearby areas, including Long Island, N.Y.; Westchester County, N.Y.;
and Danbury also were in the top 10.
Connecticut as a whole required a wage of more than $20 per hour for a
two-bedroom apartment, making it the seventh most expensive state.
The wages were calculated using figures on housing costs compiled
annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Rents
are considered affordable if they are no more than a third of a
"If we don't provide more housing for people who are making good
incomes but still can't afford a rental unit, it's going to be a big
problem," said Ross Burkhardt, president and chief executive officer of
New Neighborhoods Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer in
Stamford has tried to increase the number of affordable housing units,
Mayor Dannel Malloy said. The city requires developers of residential
buildings with 10 or more units to rent or sell 10 percent of them at
rates affordable for families who meet certain criteria, or the
developers must make a donation toward creating affordable housing
"We've allowed much more housing to be built than would have been built
under zoning rules 40 years ago," Malloy said. "We have an affordable
requirement, we put money into making housing affordable, and we work
It's not just a Stamford problem - it's regional, the mayor said.
"We're doing something, as opposed to everybody else," he said.
The news is not all bad, Malloy said.
"You wouldn't suddenly want to become the least expensive place to
live, because it would not say something good about your economy," he
said. "You want the right balance, and at least in our area, Stamford
is trying to reach that balance."
In Stamford, the average market price for renting a one-bedroom
apartment is $1,548 a month, said Phil Caruso, president of the
Stamford Board of Realtors.
Some of the cheapest rents for a one-bedroom on the market now are
around $1,200 a month, and the renter can expect to pay another $200 a
month for utilities, Caruso said. A few listings on Craigslist.org show
one-bedrooms for $900 or $1,000.
The highest market prices now are about $2,500 a month, he said.
The average market rental price for a two-bedroom apartment in Stamford
is $2,181 a month, he said.
In Norwalk, the average market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is
$1,369 a month - about $180 less per month than in Stamford, Caruso
The average price for a two-bedroom apartment in Norwalk is $2,093 a
month, he said.
an earlier AP
Fairfield, Norwalk top national list of
Posted on Apr 8, 7:58 AM EDT
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A national survey shows that Stamford and
Norwalk have the most expensive rents among metropolitan areas in the
United States for the second year in a row.
The report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the
hourly wage required to afford a market-rate, two-bedroom apartment in
the Stamford and Norwalk area is $31.58.
That figure is nearly double the national average and about five times
the federal minimum wage of $5.85 an hour. It's four times the state's
minimum wage of $7.65 an hour.
Connecticut as a whole required a wage of more than $20 per hour for a
two-bedroom apartment, making it the seventh most expensive state.
High Cost Of Renting Taking Toll In Region;
Report: Earn $17.81 an hour or be priced out of the market
Published on 4/8/2008
Derek Ellis, a 27-year-old Iraq
veteran, remembers paying $395 a month for a nice apartment in North
Carolina five years ago. Now he has to scrape together $889 a month to
rent a two-bedroom unit at the Peachtree Apartments in Norwich.
“My wife and I don't go anywhere,”
Ellis said in a phone interview Monday. “We're lucky to go out to
dinner once a month. I haven't been to a movie in two years. At the
grocery store, basically everything is generic and off-brand.”
Such is the life of renters in the
Norwich-New London area, who must earn at least $17.81 an hour to
afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to a report issued
Monday by the Connecticut Housing Coalition.
The group also pointed out that the
average wage of local renters is only $14.11 an hour.
Put in other terms, New London
County families can comfortably afford a monthly rental of $734 but
must somehow stretch their salaries to pay $926 for a moderately priced
two-bedroom apartment. The numbers assume only one wage earner per
For families earning minimum wage,
this would mean having to work nearly two-and-a-half full-time jobs,
stated the annual report, titled “Out of Reach,” which was prepared by
the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“Since the year 2000, the cost of a
two-bedroom apartment has gone up 40 percent,” said Jeffrey Freiser,
executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition.
Freiser admitted that recent
softness in the rental market related to foreclosures has started
driving down some housing costs, but he doubted the impact would be
large enough to help working families much.
While none of the affordable-housing
proponents mentioned landlords as being part of the problem, Ira
Turner, a patent attorney who owns three buildings in Norwich, pointed
out that high taxes, costly insurance, expensive maintenance and
protracted procedures in Connecticut's small-claims court contribute to
keeping rents high, as does the skyrocketing cost of oil for some whose
heat is included in their rent.
“When you combine competition from
distressed real estate, the fact that many tenants are wise to the fact
that landlords have little recourse to (make) debtors (pay), and the
price of energy, do you really think rents are too high?” he said in an
e-mail. “As a landlord, I think the idea of rent being too high is
Statewide, renters account for
404,000 households. Nearly a quarter of renters — 97,000 — spend more
than half their income on housing. The situation in eastern Connecticut
isn't quite so bad: Of the 70,617 renter households in the Second
Congressional District, 9,312 are considered to be severely stretched
on their rental costs.
“These people are this close to
being homeless,” said David Fink, policy director for the statewide
Partnership for Strong Communities.
The need for affordable housing goes
to the core of local communities, which must find people to fill
healthcare, public-safety and education positions, among others, Fink
said. He added that estimates indicate that nearly three-quarters of
all new jobs created over the next six years will pay $40,000 or less,
in today's dollars.
The “housing wage” — an amount a
person would have to earn to afford a moderately priced apartment using
only 30 percent of wages — puts nearly half of Connecticut's
occupations below the threshold of having sufficient income to afford
an apartment, according to the coalition.
“Young adults are leaving
Connecticut because they can't afford to live here,” said Freiser.
“Businesses decide not to come to Connecticut because their employees
can't afford to pay the rent or buy a home. We need housing that's
affordable if we want thriving families and a growing economy.”
“It's Economics 101; it's strictly a
factor of supply and demand,” said Fink of the housing market. “The
bottom line is that the only way you solve this huge problem is to
create more supply.”
To that end, Fink's organization
helped push the HomeConnecticut program through the state legislature
last year. The program gives financial incentives to municipalities
that allow mixed-income developments that require at least 20 percent
of units to be affordable, and so far New London, Montville and East
Lyme have bought into the program locally, according to Fink.
A similar program in Massachusetts
has resulted in more than 7,300 units of affordable housing being
built, he added.
Connecticut is the seventh least
affordable rental housing market in the country overall, and the
Stamford-Norwalk metropolitan area is the most expensive market in the
country with a housing wage of $31.58 an hour. More rural regions of
Connecticut rank the state as the fifth least affordable for renters.
The Connecticut Housing Coalition
used the report to launch a renewed call for a National Housing Trust
Fund. The U.S. House passed the legislation, but the Senate has yet to
“The National Housing Trust Fund is
exactly the shot in the arm that we need now, as the economy worsens,”
said Freiser. “Housing activity is a powerful economic stimulus, and
families urgently need help with their housing situations.”
Jane Dauphinais, director of the
Southeastern Connecticut Housing Alliance, said she believes some
municipalities have seen the light. East Lyme is currently building
work-force housing on Hope Street, she pointed out, and Montville is
moving in the right direction as well, thanks to its planner, Marcia
Vlaun. Stonington and North Stonington are working on
affordable-housing plans too, she said, and Waterford remains
“The subprime (mortgage) issue is
only exacerbating the need for rental housing,” she said, as people
with foreclosed homes re-enter the apartment market.
While some people seem to think
rental housing and higher densities will add to already overburdened
school systems, Dauphinais said this is not true. It takes 25
one-bedroom apartments to add a single child to the school system, and
it takes four two-bedroom units to make the same impact, she said.
“Towns need to identify sections in
town where higher density is a positive,” Dauphinais said.
As an example, she said, Groton has
recently identified four mixed-use zones that would be appropriate for
Any solution, added Fink of the
Partnership for Strong Communities, must take into consideration the
“not in my backyard” mentality spawned by previous failed experiments
in affordable housing, such as the warehousing of low-income people in
projects. Until people get past the incorrect impression that crime and
declining property values go hand-in-hand with affordable housing, Fink
suggested, nothing will get done.
“The problem we have,” he said, “is
this morass of myths we have to work through.”
New York and the
Subprime Mortgage Crisis
By Sewell Chan
2008, 1:19 pm
Confused about the turmoil roiling
mortgages and the housing market? You’re not alone. A group of experts
discussed the subprime mortgage meltdown on Tuesday evening at the
Museum of the City of New York. Their pronouncements were sobering —
many New Yorkers have been and will remain at risk of defaulting on
their mortgages and having their homes foreclosed upon — and the worst
may not yet be over. A summary of the discussion follows.
Constance Mitchell Ford, a
23-year veteran of The Wall Street Journal who is now the newspaper’s
real estate editor, moderated the discussion. She made comparisons
between the mortgage crisis and the junk-bond crisis of the late 1980s:
I actually came to New York
20 years ago to cover the meltdown of the junk-bond market, which some
people would say is the corporate equivalent of the subprime market. It
was a way for companies that didn’t have particularly good credit, or
maybe they were very young — this provided them with opportunities to
grow and expand. To this day I will never forget some of the letters I
would get from consumers who had their entire life savings in junk-bond
mutual founds and lost it all or at least a good chunk of it.
Ms. Mitchell Ford, in her
opening remarks, expressed the hope that the subprime mortgage market
will survive — with reforms:
There needs to be a way for
people who don’t have pristine credit to buy homes. However, any future
subprime market has to be substantially different than what we’ve had
in the past. People can argue that we need more regulation, more truth
in lending, less predatory lending — there are a lot of things that
need to change the market, but at the end of the day, I’m one of the
people who feels and hopes that something happens that brings this
Gretchen Morgenson, a Pulitzer
Prize-winning business columnist and reporter for The New York Times,
“How did we come to the
precipice so quickly?” she asked. “How did we quickly find ourselves at
the edge of the cliff?”
To a large extent, “people
did what they were expected,” with one exception, as she explained the
roles of the major players in the crisis:
Wall Street. “Innovation is a Wall
Street specialty. … It is what makes our capital markets run very
smoothly and the envy of the world, but in this particular case, Wall
Street really sowed the seeds of this problem when it created this pool
of mortgages that really did a lot to take away from the due diligence
that naturally would have occurred when banks made loans to borrowers
in the old-fashioned sense of the word. What replaced it was a process
of really almost a factory line of producing pools of mortgages, the
more the merrier.”
Investors. “They were willing to pay
for these loans, to buy them without a care for due diligence and
whether or not due diligence was done. They were looking for yield and
found it it in spades. They were eagerly buying these securities
without knowing what was in them.”
Rating agencies. “Aiding and
abetting this, of course, were the rating agencies, how were charged
with analyzing these complex securities, to try and tell investors
whether they were risky and not risky, or whether parts were risky, and
grading them. These rating agencies fell down on the job considerably
because, as it turns out, their computer models, their predictions,
their assessments for what was going to happen with these loans, for
what percentage of them were going to be money-good, were found to be
extremely wrong and lacking.”
Regulators. “I would really reserve
most of my dismay for the regulatory structure that fell down on the
job. Wall Street is supposed to generate securities that generate fees
and investments that people want to buy. Investors are also supposed to
want to get the best possible returns. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, regulators are supposed to regulate, and the absolute laxity
that the regulators approached the subprime problem with, from the very
outset, is appalling. I think it’s a very, very unfortunate aspect of
this. Really, the regulators were the dog that did not bark in this
entire scenario. A lot of it was perhaps a bit predictable, but no one
I think saw that this was going to have the ripple effects this was
going to have — including the demise of Bear Stearns.”
Ms. Morgenson added that a
single institutional solution to the problem — like the Resolution
Trust Corporation that was created to buy assets of failed savings and
loans in the late 1980s and early 1990s — is simply not available this
“Any solution to this problem
really must be done one by one, one mortgage at a time,” Ms. Morgenson
predicted, noting that multiple parties — homeowners, investors who own
mortgage-based securities, loan servicing companies and law firms that
represent the servicing companies — all have a stake in the outcome.
“There’s a cast of characters
and their interests are not necessarily aligned,” she said. “It is a
really big mess.”
crisis begins to
ROB VARNON and KEN DIXON email@example.com
Article Last Updated: 02/27/2008 01:19:56 AM EST
Like mold enveloping a house, the foreclosure crisis is spreading out
beyond the state's urban centers, such as Bridgeport, and starting to
eat away at the fabric of suburban communities.
January foreclosures in Connecticut continued to rise, according to
RealtyTrac.com, propelling the state into the top 10 nationally based
on rate of filings. The California company, which tracks foreclosure
filings across the country, released its monthly report Tuesday.
In Hartford, majority Democratic lawmakers said they're considering
legislation, which has yet to be written, aimed at creating a
wide-ranging mortgage assistance program.
"Too many people have been caught in this mortgage crisis and are
finding they cannot afford to keep up payments on their homes," Speaker
of the House James A. Amann said.
"If the rate of foreclosures continues to escalate, thousands of
families and our economy stand to suffer," said Amann, D-Milford.
Connecticut, at number eight, helped round out RealtyTrac's top 10
list, which now includes some of what, until recently, were the hottest
real estate markets of the last decade — Nevada, California, Florida,
Arizona and Colorado. There were 3,697 foreclosure actions taken in
Connecticut in January, according to RealtyTrac.
The majority of the activity in Connecticut came in the initial filing
stage, when the lender files a court case after the borrower defaults,
with 2,882 cases filed in January. There were 531 notices of
foreclosure sale issued and banks took 284 properties last month.
This is not the first time Connecticut has been in the top 10. In April
2007, Connecticut had the third-highest foreclosure rate in the nation
and it remained in the top 10 in May and June before falling off the
top of the list in July. The difference between Tuesday's RealtyTrac
report and those from 2007 is where the foreclosures took place. In
2007, the foreclosures were happening in Bridgeport, New Haven and
Hartford. Now, those white-and-black auction signs are popping up more
frequently in suburbs like Fairfield and Milford as well as Stamford.
Just two months ago, RealtyTrac data showed that 657 families living in
14 Connecticut municipalities were in preforeclosure, which means they
were delinquent and a foreclosure filing was imminent. Those 14 cities
and towns represented a cross-section of Fairfield County and other
cities and towns in the Bridgeport area.
Tuesday, there were 2,100 families in those same communities who had
entered preforeclosure. The bulk of the distressed families in these 14
communities remain in Bridgeport, which accounts for about 40 percent
of the homes in preforeclosure, but the numbers in other communities
have doubled and tripled in just two months.
Many proposals are beginning to surface to combat the problem. Some
call for more stringent lending standards, while others propose
creating government-backed lending programs that will buy mortgages and
refinance them through a new government agency. U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd,
D-Conn., has proposed this at the federal level, while Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal is backing a state version.
During a Feb. 13 press conference in Hartford, Blumenthal was critical
of the state's efforts to help residents who have already fallen into
foreclosure. Then, he cited the Connecticut Housing Financial
Authority's dismal record after Gov. M. Jodi Rell directed it to offer
aid. The CHFA, he said, was disqualifying families who did not have
good credit and the program has only been able to help about two dozen
In reaction to the Democratic proposal, Rell, a Republican, on Tuesday
told reporters that funding restrictions within the CHFA, such as
federal guidelines, could limit the extent it is able to assist
Speaking to reporters in her Capitol office, Rell said lawmakers should
craft a bill that would protect the state if homeowners can't meet the
terms of mortgage support.
"Is it going to be credit worthy for us to be able to loan money out?"
Rell said. "You want to protect those investments so that you're not
losing funds and you're at least administering it in such a way that
the people who qualify will, in fact, pay off that loan."
Rell said more announcements about mortgage relief will be made this
"We can and will be doing more," she said. The legislation will be the
subject of a public hearing Thursday morning in the General Assembly's
Banks Committee. According to RealtyTrac's Tuesday report, the national
pace of foreclosures is slowing.
RealtyTrac said foreclosure filings ticked up 8 percent from the
December-to-January period, well off the 19 percent pace from the same
period last year. Filings in January 2008 were up 57 percent from
January 2007, the company said.
The new proposals follow in the wake of a slew of programs unveiled by
private lenders and state and local governments during the last year.
Local action groups and some economists are among those criticizing
these programs, essentially saying they're too little, too late.
That includes the Bush administration's agreement with major lenders to
make more of an effort to contact borrowers who are in default before
filing a foreclosure action.
But groups like the Association of Communities for Reform Now told the
Connecticut Post in previous interviews this does nothing but delay the
date people get thrown out into the street. And Tuesday, the head of
RealtyTrac wondered the same thing.
"The big question is whether those efforts are truly helping owners
avoid foreclosure in the long term or if they are just temporarily
forestalling the inevitable for many beleaguered borrowers," RealtyTrac
Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said.
cites decline in affordable housing along
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published August 22 2007
STAMFORD - Despite efforts to close the gap between residents' income
and housing costs, it continues to widen, a study published yesterday
The study of the supply and demand for affordable housing - published
by the South Western Regional Planning Agency - found that eight
southwestern Connecticut cities and towns often nicknamed the "Gold
Coast" have become more gilded since 1996, when a similar study already
targeted affordable housing as a significant problem.
The supply of government-regulated, moderately priced housing decreased
from 1998 to 2006, according to the study, even as housing prices shot
up and job growth attracted more residents.
Harrell-Michalowski Associates, the Hamden planning firm that produced
the study, examined statistics from Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan,
Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton. The statistics include
the number of housing authority apartments, federal vouchers to
subsidize rents in privately owned buildings, units with deed
restrictions on their rent or sale price and private homes with
mortgages guaranteed by the state or federal governments.
The region's supply of government-regulated affordable housing units
dropped by 11 percent from 1998 to 2006, though much of that drop came
with the demolition of the Stamford Housing Authority's Southfield
Village complex. The crime-riddled, crumbling complex was replaced by a
lower-density, mixed-income development seen as a showpiece of the
federal government's HOPE VI revitalization program, which replaces
outdated public housing.
Since then, Stamford has passed an ordinance requiring developers of
multifamily housing to include affordable units in each project. The
ordinance was passed in 2003, but units created under it have just
begun to be occupied in the past two years. According to statistics
from Stamford's land-use bureau compiled in July, about 85 units have
been built, with another 47 under construction. Another 200 have been
approved, but not built.
"I'm pretty satisfied with what we've been doing," Mayor Dannel Malloy
Stamford's own affordable housing study, completed in 2001, found the
city needed 8,000 affordable homes to keep up with job growth.
Still, the strides made in the past several years have set the stage
for much more affordable housing production, according to Joan Carty,
executive director of the Housing Development Fund, a nonprofit
affordable housing lender and advocacy group.
"The delivery . . . is going to be really much easier now that the
infrastructure is in place," she said.
That includes inclusionary housing ordinances such as Stamford's and
one passed by Norwalk in January, increased participation from banks in
affordable housing lending and a recent focus by state and regional
leaders on creating more housing near transit centers, something the
new SWRPA study recommends.
"Higher density, which is considered such a bad thing in some parts of
the county, is actually considered more acceptable in transit hubs,"
At the same time, the astronomic rise in the area's housing market has
eroded the supply of affordable rental and owner-occupied homes
Based on 2000 U.S. Census figures, the authors found that only 14.4
percent of homes in the region's towns were affordable for purchase to
families making about $82,000 - 80 percent of the area's median income
for a family of four.
For those earning half the median income - $51,000 - only 2.6 percent
of the market-rate housing stock was considered affordable, meaning
people at that income level would spend 30 percent or less of their
income on housing.
The percentages were higher if a family could move from one town to
another within the region, but the housing market's gains have erased
even those opportunities, the study found.
Since 2000, housing prices have essentially doubled in Greenwich,
Norwalk and Stamford, but incomes have risen much less - about 13.5
percent for the region. Sales price increases for all eight towns
studied rose 74 percent for single-family homes and 73 percent for
The study attributed the overall shortage of government-regulated
assistance to a reduction in government spending on affordable housing,
combined with increased land and construction costs in the urban areas
near mass transit and already densely developed areas where the authors
said affordable housing makes the most sense.
"There's just not enough money to build affordable housing, that's why
it's not being built," Malloy said. "The two levels of government -
state and federal - which were responsible for building affordable
housing for the last 70 years, have largely withdrawn from the market
"For communities that don't want to build it to begin with, that
becomes a great excuse."
Malloy acknowledged that the
reconfiguration of Southwood Village taught the city lessons about
replacing subsidized housing. The Board of Representatives passed a
one-for-one replacement ordinance after criticism that the replacement,
Southwood Square, created fewer units than the original complex. It
requires construction of one affordable unit for every
government-subsidized unit that is torn down.
The reduction that the study
attributes to the Southfield Village replacement does not account for
the fact that a large percentage - Malloy estimated about 15 percent -
of the complex was vacant because so many apartments were uninhabitable.
"Do I feel bad about Southwood? The
answer is no," he said.
The study also made direct
connections between the shortage of affordable housing and the area's
transportation gridlock. As jobs increase in Stamford and Norwalk,
workers have had to travel farther to get to their jobs because housing
production has not kept pace with job growth.
The report recommends local and
state leaders evaluate 22 areas in the eight municipalities for more
dense development. The areas are either near existing train stations,
in areas that are served by bus routes or could be, or are already more
densely developed than surrounding areas.
The study recommends state and local
governments pursue density bonuses and other incentives for developers
to create affordable housing in those areas.
Other recommendations include SWRPA
becoming an affordable housing information clearinghouse in its role as
the region's main intergovernmental planning agency, and urging lenders
to create more flexibility in mortgages so home buyers can borrow more
within acceptable limits.
Carty urged caution on increasing
the percentage of household income that lenders allow to go toward
mortgage and housing costs, saying that was part of the problem that
has led many less-qualified borrowers into default in the current
subprime mortgage crisis that has roiled the stock markets.
"You don't want people one paycheck
away from disaster," she said.
Instead, lenders should consider
40-year mortgages, which spread out payments for much longer. Buyers
don't build equity as fast, she said, but they can afford much more
home in an expensive market.
- The study is available on SWRPA's
Web site, www.swrpa.org.
Suggest Problems In Future For Connecticut; Glimpse of
state's population in 2030 shows aging, segregation
By Karin Crompton
Published on 5/16/2007
For the next 25 years, Connecticut's population will keep getting older
and more segregated, a state data center concludes in projections
The state will have fewer working-age people to support the glut of
baby boomers who will retire, and the state's minorities will continue
to be concentrated in a handful of urban areas while the rest of
Connecticut remains predominantly white.
Also, if not for an influx of foreign-born immigrants — other than
Hispanics — the state's population would shrink rather than grow. The
state's population growth, the center reports, is ranked among the
lowest in the country and puts the state at risk of losing seats in the
U.S. House of Representatives.
“The baby boomers didn't have enough kids to support them in
retirement, is what it boils down to,” said Orlando Rodriguez, manager
of the Connecticut State Data Center, which released the projections
today. “We need to make up the shortfall somewhere.”
The Connecticut State Data Center, created in 2006, serves as a liaison
to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state uses the data to create public
policy and to decide where to spend money.
Rodriguez, who said the information should ideally be published every
three to five years, said the information was previously collected by
the state Office of Policy and Management, which outsourced the job to
the Center. The population projections haven't been updated in 12 years.
The Center uses a figure called a “dependency ratio” that takes 100
workers and calculates how many people are dependent upon them. There
is a ratio for children and one for the elderly (those over 65).
The combination of the two is called a “total dependency” ratio. In
Connecticut, that number is projected to rise from 67 people dependent
upon every 100 workers in 2005 to 96 for every 100 in 2030.
Rodriguez looked up some figures for southeastern Connecticut.
“Whoa!” he yelped over the phone, clicking on the town of Lyme. Its
total dependency ratio is projected to reach 110 by 2030 — every 100
working people in Lyme will have to support 110 retirees.
But these are statistics, after all.
“This is a wealthy retirement community, so that may not mean
anything,” he said.
Overall, the state is projected to gain just three new residents for
every 1,000 existing residents annually until 2030. Locally, the
numbers foretell much the same. New London County's total population is
projected to grow at a rate of 0.02 percent by 2030, down from 0.20
percent in 2005.
Some of the more startling projections include:
• Sprague's median age, which was 43.2 in 2005, will climb to 65.9 in
• Waterford's population drops from 18,303 in 2005 to 16,758 in 2030.
• East Lyme, considered a hub for 55-and-older housing, is projected to
see a decrease in the population's median age, from 43 in 2005 to 40.7
Rodriguez is quick to point out that the projections are different from
“We look at the past and we do not take into account anything that will
happen in the future,” he said. “It's not an economic forecast — if the
(sub) base closes, they put in an Ikea, build 100 houses ... It's not
Rodriguez said the data represents “one scenario. This may happen, not
that it will happen.”
The Center groups the state's 169 municipalities into five categories:
rural, suburban, urban core, urban periphery and wealthy. The
definitions for each category come from a combination of population
density (people per square mile), median family income and the
percentage of the population that falls under the poverty threshold.
Rodriguez concedes that the classifications are dated and need
updating. He said they were done three or four years ago and are based
on information from the 2000 Census.
That could explain why East Lyme is grouped in the rural category while
Salem falls into suburban. Rodriguez looked up the figures and said
East Lyme's population density is too low to be categorized as suburban
and its income is too high for the rural classification.
“You could say it's in transition,” he said.
New London is the only southeastern Connecticut city classified as an
urban center. Norwich and Groton are both considered urban periphery.
Extremely high population density is the primary characteristic for the
category, according to the Center.
While race was not used to determine categories, the Center concludes
that the state's minorities are most concentrated in the urban centers,
or “urban core” towns.
While the urban core classification accounted for 19 percent of the
state's population in 2000, the Center reports, more than half of the
state's blacks and Hispanics lived there. At the same time, more than
half of the state's white population lived in towns that were at least
90 percent white.
Statewide in 2000, 78 percent of towns were at least 90 percent white.
“I think one of the leading misconceptions is that Connecticut is a
racially diverse state,” said Rodriguez, who moved here from New
Orleans in 2002. “People say a quarter of the population is minorities
and it's the same nationwide. That may be true, but that quarter is
limited to seven towns in the state. So our minorities are segregated.”
The population projections can be seen at
The town listings by category can be seen at
Zoning Amendment For District In
By Jenna Cho
Published on 4/23/2007
North Stonington — Garden
Court LLC, of Woodstock, has proposed a zoning text amendment to create
an affordable housing district in town.
The application for the district, to
be called the “Housing Opportunity Development Overlay District,” will
likely go to a public hearing in July. The town's zoning
enforcement officer, Craig Grimord, said the April 13 application is
the first affordable housing district proposal he has seen in his five
years working for the town.
“This district is adopted to assist
the Town in complying with the State Zoning Enabling Act ... by
adopting zoning regulations that encourage multi-family dwellings and
promote housing choice and economic diversity, including housing for
low and moderate income households,” the proposed text amendment reads.
The application includes the text
amendment as well as plans for the development of Garden Court, a
complex that would include 123 affordable units — the 30 percent
mandated by state statute.
The development is proposed in the
easterly side of town, north of Interstate 95 and west of Boombridge
Road. It would consist of 17 four-story residential buildings with 408
one- and two-bedroom units, recreational amenities and at least 15
percent of the site set aside for open space.
The development would have its own
well water and an on-site sewer system.
Because the proposed district would
be an overlay district, approval of the text amendment “would not
override the provisions of the underlying zone until approval of a
final site plan for an affordable housing development consistent with
(the state statute).”
Timothy Bates, the attorney for
Garden Court LLC, stated in a memorandum that only 0.58 percent of
North Stonington's housing units are deemed affordable by the state
Department of Economic and Community Development. Towns where less than
10 percent of the housing stock is deemed affordable by state law are
subject to provisions of the law. If such town rejects a project that
includes affordable housing and the developer appeals, the town must
prove the reason it rejected the application outweighs the need for
affordable housing in the community.
The application includes a “Garden
Court Affordability Plan,” which defines how affordability will be
“administered and maintained,” outlines the application process for
obtaining an affordable unit and identifies maximum rent calculations.
Garden Court's sole principal is listed as Stephanie A. Marcotte, of
COG to Fund Affordable Housing
By Karin Crompton
Published on 4/18/2007
The regional Council of Governments
voted unanimously this morning to pick up the cost of benefits and
serve as supervisor to a person whose full-time role will be to promote
affordable housing throughout the region.
Members of the COG said the move
makes business sense but also, with COG in charge, it is a symbolic
gesture representing a regional approach to the issue.
The COG will sign a memo of
agreement with the Southeastern Connecticut Housing Alliance to help it
in hiring an executive director for that organization.
SECHA also needs to approve the
arrangement, though COG Executive Director James Butler said the group
has already granted preliminary approval.
The hope of both organizations,
which work together, is that a better benefits package will help lure a
strong candidate to the area.
Under the arrangement, SECHA will
assume the costs of salary, social security and unemployment taxes,
which total about $80,000 annually. The COG will pay for retirement,
health, long-term disability and life insurance at a cost of about
Butler said COG can use reserve
funds to pay for the position the first year and that an anticipated
increase in state aid should cover the cost afterward.
SECHA has tried twice before the
fill the position, first on a part-time basis and then with a
full-timer whose tenure was short-lived.
Build Working-Class Housing;
Connecticut policies shut out many workers
from dream of one day owning their own homes.
Published on 4/1/2007
The state cannot afford unaffordable
A recent two-day series in The Day
points out that the price for rental housing is too costly for many
working people. The situation is far worse when it comes to home
buying. Based on the
premise that a person should spend no more than one-third of a paycheck
on housing, a full-time worker needs $14.23 an hour, about double the
state's minimum wage, to cover the average cost of a modest one-bedroom
In reality, many families are
spending half of their income, or more, to pay the rent.
According to state Department of
Labor statistics, many of the fastest growing jobs in the state do not
pay people enough to afford even a modest apartment. On average, a
retail salesperson makes $13 an hour; a cashier, $9.67; a food service
worker, $9.37; a security guard, $11.86; a home health-care aide,
$12.50, the data say. Such
working people have to combine two and three salaries to afford a
decent apartment. Rising energy and health-care costs make matters
The traditional ladder to home
ownership has been to rent an apartment for a time while saving for the
down payment on a home. But with the median price for a home in the
Norwich-New London region at $258,000, and with potential first-time
buyers spending every penny just to pay the rent, the rungs on the
ladder are far too high for many people.
This inequality between what many
people make and what apartments cost to rent is a product of
old-fashioned supply and demand. There are many more people in need of
affordable apartments than there are apartments available. In a free market, developers should be
rushing to meet this demand by building more affordable units. But that
requires dense development, meaning more units per acre to minimize
The problem is, most towns currently
have zoning regulations that discourage multifamily construction.
Instead regulations encourage construction of large homes on huge lots
of two, three and more acres. What dense development is allowed is
typically restricted to senior housing communities for people 55 and
older. The cynical
message this sends is that towns don't want young, working-class
families unless they make enough to buy one of those big homes.
It is a strategy that is turning our
picturesque countryside with its forests and farms into
McMansion-dominated subdivisions and big-box retail shopping centers.
Higher-income residents are concentrated in suburban towns, those with
lower incomes live in depressed city neighborhoods. Connecticut, and this region, cannot
afford to stay on this course. To grow and expand, a healthy economy
needs a diverse work force. When young families flee to other states
where they can afford to live, businesses will be sure to follow. It is
a recipe for economic decline.
Dilemma of generating revenue
Town leaders say restrictive zoning
policies are a matter of government economics. Affordable,
working-class housing brings more children into a community. And more
children mean higher education costs and higher property taxes or cuts
in other services. Multifamily and other forms of affordable housing do
not come close to generating the tax money to cover the education
A proposal now before the
legislature — “An Act Concerning Housing for Economic Growth” — seeks
to address that dilemma. It would encourage towns to create “Housing
Incentive Zones” with dense development — defined as six single-family
units per acre; 10 duplexes per acre; or 20 apartments per acre – and
with at least 20 percent of the units priced for families at 80 percent
of median income or below.
This would not be public housing,
but rather private housing driven by market forces. This housing would
make the most sense where there is already sewer and water services to
support it. It holds the potential to revive former mill villages and
breathe life into town centers.
In return for providing the
opportunity for needed housing, towns would receive immediate incentive
payments, up to $7,000 per unit, followed by annual payments for up to
15 years for every child who moved into the incentive zone housing. The
state payments would cover any net additional education costs the town
incurs because of those students.
As with any legislation, details
need to be worked out, but the plan provides a framework for reversing
a troubling trend. When combined with Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal to
make the state a true partner in the cost of educating our children, it
could again make Connecticut a place that welcomes young, working
Housing Topic of Summit
By Jennifer Connic
Posted 12/12 at 11:03 PM
Experts and residents discussed affordable housing tonight at a
Westport Town Hall meeting and many agreed that they know what is
needed to garner support to move forward to erect such housing.
For almost three hours, experts suggested ways to provide more
affordable housing and responded to audience questions and comments
during what was billed as a “Citiizens Summit on Affordable Housing.”
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who organized the meeting, said
affordable housing is an issue of paramount concern.
“We need to constitute it in a manner that is in a good location and
that is of a density that is good for the neighborhood,” he said.
David Fink, policy and communications director for Hartford-based
Partnership for Strong Community, said there has been an increase in
the number of communities where those earning the median income cannot
afford the median priced housing. In 1994, it happened in 102 out
of 169 cities and towns in Connecticut, he said, and in 2005 it was
happening in 157 cities and towns.
While workers could be drawn from other communities to a wealthier
community like Westport, he said, that is less likely to happen
today. There are no starter homes any more, Fink said, and
builders are constructing housing for senior citizens and large
McMansions. Land costs are high, he said, so it is not
financially viable to build a starter home.
Floyd Lapp, South Western Regional Planning Agency executive director,
said there should be a model where zoning regulations require 20-25
percent of units in a project to be restricted to be affordable.
Additionally, there should be zoning bonuses to permit higher density
when a developer proposes affordable housing, he said.
Modular homes should be used because they would cut down on
construction costs, Lapp said, and developments should be
transit-oriented and located within a five to 10 minute walk from a
train station. Accessory apartments should be legalized, he said,
and there should be multi-family homes that are in the style of
townhouses and rowhouses.
Westporter Ross Burkhardt, president and CEO of New Neighbors, Inc., a
Stamford-based nonprofit community development corporation, said the
parking lots at office developments are empty at night. Those
areas should be used for housing to share parking, he said, because one
of the biggest problems in construction of affordable housing is
finding adequate parking.
Rick Redniss, president of the Stamford-based land planning and
consulting firm Redniss and Mead, said the edges of places like
corporate parks are good places for affordable housing. Part of
the problem is that when land becomes available, it’s hard for a
community to react and buy it and set up housing, he said.
“By the time they can do something, someone in the private sector can
swoop in,” Redniss said. Several audience members complained that
while there have been many suggetions on ways municipalities can
succeed in constructing affordable housing, it hasn’t been done.
David Press, a Planning and Zoning Commission member, said that when
running for office people often ask questions about affordable housing
at the candidate forums. Despite the questions, however, the same
problems still exist, he said.
“We need the will to move it along,” Press said. “It’s frustrating
because we pass the zones and then there are no bricks and mortar.”
Joseloff said while there was a lot of talk about the issue tonight, he
would like to see action taken.
By Jennifer Connic
December 2, 2006
Westport First Selectman Gordon
Joseloff has announced details of a “Citizens Summit on Affordable
Housing” on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.
The meeting, which will be televised
live on the town’s government access channel 79, will include a panel
discussion with four experts on housing issues as well as an
opportunity for audience comment and questions, he said.
The first selectman had earlier
disclosed plans for the meeting but did not name the participants. (See
WestportNow Nov. 20, 2006)
“I invite all Westporters and others
to educate ourselves on how we can address the pressing need for
affordable housing for seniors, young people, first-time homebuyers,
and moderate-income earners including our police officers,
firefighters, teachers and other municipal workers,” Joseloff said.
“With so much attention focused on
the issue recently in Westport, I thought it vital for us to begin a
community dialogue to explore potential solutions to this critical
need. It is imperative that Westport develop new affordable housing
units on our terms and on locations we select.”
The panel will be moderated by
Steven Daniels, chair of the Joint Housing Committee of the Westport
Human Services Commission, and include:
--Ross Burkhardt, president and
chief executive officer of New Neighbors, Inc., a Stamford-based
nonprofit community development corporation that develops affordable
housing. Burkhardt is a former member of the Westport Planning and
Zoning Commission and the Westport Housing Authority.
Fink, policy and
communications director for the Hartford-based Partnership for Strong
Community and its advocacy group, Homes Connecticut. These
organizations support the creation of more affordable housing in
Connecticut through education, outreach, and advocacy.
--Dr. Floyd Lapp, executive
director, South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) in Stamford.
Lapp earned his doctorate in urban planning from Columbia University
where he is an adjunct professor of transportation planning. He has
more than 40 years experience in planning, development, and
transportation issues at all levels of government.
--Rick Redniss, president of Redniss
and Mead, a Stamford-based land planning and consulting firm. He served
on Connecticut’s Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Affordable Housing and
has been involved in a number of Westport affordable and supportive
Posted 12/02 at 01:09 PM
Housing Topic of Westport Conversations
By Jennifer Connic
November 20, 2006
For a variety of reasons affordable housing has been a topic of
conversation over the last few months in Westport. It was a topic
of great interest at the first public meeting about the update for the
Town Plan of Conservation and Development, and the Planning and Zoning
Commission is currently considering an affordable housing application
for the Gorham Avenue Historic District.
Now in December, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff is planning a summit
on affordable housing in Westport. The summit is scheduled for
Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall and will include experts on
affordable housing. Joseloff said the subject—whether it’s called
affordable, workforce or senior housing—is of a major concern to
Westporters, and everyone needs to learn more about it.
There needs to be a place to house young people who work in Westport,
house the town’s employees and give chances for senior citizens who
want to downsize and stay in town, he said. Residents have said
they rather be the ones to control how the town addresses affordable
housing needs, Joseloff said, rather than the private developers.
Town officials are working to move ahead with an engineering firm to
analyze placing affordable housing on the Baron’s South property, which
currently houses the Center for Senior Activities, he said.
“We need to learn as much as we can,” he said. “We have to learn how to
do it successfully on our own terms.”
Joseloff said during the year he has been in office, a number of senior
citizens have contacted him that they cannot afford to stay in
Westport. Many of them are people who have lived in town for many
years, he said.
“It’s sad and the town needs to step up and find ways (to provide
affordable housing),” he said.
Planning and Zoning Director Laurence Bradley said affordable housing
is included in the current incarnation of the town plan in that the
P&Z should promote it when possible. Through the discussions with
boards and commissions for the update, affordable housing was one of
the biggest topics brought up for consideration in the town plan
update, he said.
“If you look through (the interviews), you see it as a theme,” he said.
The town’s emergency officials have seen an effect on how they respond
to emergencies because their workers live a distance away.
“I would obviously love to have our people live here,” said Police
Chief Al Fiore. “We have a few, but not many because they can’t afford
The people who do live in Westport received their property from their
parents or grandparents, he said.
“It would be a nice option to have our people locally,” he said. During
emergencies, it’s harder to respond to the incident, Fiore said.
During the Labor Day weekend wind storm, he said, there was a waiting
period for people to arrive because the officers were coming from
Trumbull, Monroe and Shelton.
“We can wait up to an hour for them,” he said.
Fire Chief Christopher Ackley said there is a noticeable impact on how
firefighters respond than when they closer, such as a callback for a
“It takes them longer to come back,” he said. “It can take 40 minutes
or more for them to come in.”
In a weather event such as a snow storm, he said, the firefighters are
not only traveling distances to report for work; they are also fighting
the weather to get to Westport.
Considers Denying Gorham
Affordable Housing Plan
By Jennifer Connic
December 1, 2006
All seven Westport Planning and
Zoning Commission members said tonight they should deny a plan for an
affordable housing in the Gorham Avenue Historic District and began
discussing how to back up such a vote.
Red Coat Development has proposed to
build 20 condominiums at the 1.5 acres at 296 Main St. and 5 Gorham
Ave. Six of the units would be deemed “affordable” under state
statutes. The application falls under the state’s affordable housing
statute, which switches the burden of proof on a zoning decision to the
Commission members said there is a
significant need for affordable housing in Westport, but the plan
presented was not the proper way to do it.
“We have a need for affordable
housing in this town,” said Bruce Kasanoff, a commission member. “It’s
critical and we need to do more. If I thought of the worst possible way
to do it, (the application) would be close to it.”
He said it appeared the applicant
did not have any interest in designing a viable affordable housing
project for the community nor how the commission could improve its
affordable housing regulations.
Howard Lathrop, a commission member,
said the town has regulations for affordable housing, and if Redcoat
officials were serious about developing the housing they should try to
work within that.
“They should look where they could
easily do it, and it would come with encouragement,” he said.
Commission members Timothy Wetmore
and David Press said they both considered ways that the application
could be changed in order to make the plan more appealing to the
neighborhood, but it would mean a drastic cut in the number of units.
“It would mean dramatically less
than 20 units, and the applicant said they would not do that,” Wetmore
Press said he believes the
commission should develop further affordable housing regulations that
are for residential and not commercial areas of town because of the
Ron Corwin, a commission member,
said the commission needs to proceed carefully because there is a high
probability the case would be appealed in court.
Commission Chairwoman Eleanor
Lowenstein said the application was one of the toughest she has ever
sat on, but she believes the commission has a “leg to stand on” in
denying the application.
The plan is for a historic district,
she said, and historic districts fall under a different state statute
The Historic District Commission
carries certain powers under the state statutes, she said.
The HDC needs to approve any plans
that change a historic district before the Planning and Zoning
Commission reviews it, she said.
“They have to abide by zoning
regulations, but we have no say in the things they say about facades,”
Additionally, the potential drainage
problems with the project is another issue that could stand up in
court, she said.
Planning and Zoning Director
Laurence Bradley said the commission has more expert testimony to use
as backup for its decision than he has seen in any other state
affordable housing case.
The commission has until Jan. 20 to
vote on the application.
Affordable rentals could fill 'hole'
By Hoa Nguyen, Staff Writer
Published December 1 2006
Saying that he wants to provide more affordable housing in town, a
Greenwich developer has submitted plans for one of the largest
apartment buildings recently proposed in town.
John Fareri is seeking to construct 96 rental apartments on four
stories at 644 W. Putnam Ave., a fenced-in and half-excavated
construction site known as "the hole." In the process, he wants to
change a town zoning rule to create more incentive for developers to
build affordable housing.
The building will occupy about 42,000 square feet and include a mix of
one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 700-square-feet
to 1,700 square-feet and feature two underground parking spaces and a
gym, pool and fitness center. The rents will range from $1,800 to
$4,000, though 20 of the units will be priced at $1,200 for residents
who meet income guidelines, such as a single person who earns $72,054
or less or a two-person family with earnings of $90,067 or less.
"I want this to be a model project," Fareri said.
The developer bought the property three years ago after Competition
& Sports Cars abandoned plans to build a BMW showroom and service
facility there, leaving the half-dug site. Since then, the site has sat
unused while Fareri mulled his options, he said. Though he initially
shopped the site around to commercial tenants, Fareri said his mind
turned to housing after learning that the town lacks affordable
housing. Only about 5 percent of Greenwich's housing stock is
affordable, well below the state mandate of 10 percent.
"After reading article after article about affordable housing, I must
say I was kind of challenged," the developer said. "The more I thought
about it, the more I thought a residential use would be the best use of
Fareri said he wants to target the market of tenants who once would
have leased units at Putnam Green and Weaver's Hill but now can't
because the two rental apartment complexes are being converted into
condominiums and sold at luxury prices. Rents there had ranged anywhere
from $1,200 to $3,600.
"I kept reading day after day about what's happening there," Fareri
One of the most significant aspects of the project is that developers
want a zoning concession, seeking to build about double the number of
units and a much larger structure than typically allowed in exchange
for the 20 moderate-income units. The proposal seeks to change the
zoning rules to allow other developers to follow suit, saying that the
current rules don't offer enough incentives to build affordable housing.
"Time's changed and economics changed," said Fareri's zoning lawyer
The project is expected to face stiff Planning and Zoning Commission
scrutiny because the proposed zoning change would allow other
developers to follow suit and perhaps lead to overbuilding, Town
Planner Diane Fox said.
"There's going to be a lot of discussion on the impact to zoning," she
said. "If we do it for this, does this open the Pandora's box for
One alternative Fareri could take would be to target about a third of
the units for low-income tenants, which would require him to offer
lower rents on more units but he said that economically, could be
achieved if he built a bigger building with more units. State laws
mandate that towns must approve such projects, giving officials limited
Fareri said he is not interested in such a building.
"You would have a taller building, you would have more bulk," he said.
"It's important for me to say 'I built that building and I'm proud of
Area residents say housing is becoming
harder to afford
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published November 28 2006
Despite attempts to address an acute
shortage of affordable housing, the problem is getting worse, according
to most people surveyed an Advocate and Greenwich Time poll. The poll conducted by the University of
Connecticut's Center for Survey Research and Analysis found nearly 60
percent of respondents in Stamford, Greenwich and Norwalk believe the
problem of housing affordability has worsened in the past five years.
More than three-fourths of all
respondents said the lack of affordable housing is a "very serious" or
"somewhat serious" problem. An overwhelming 78 percent of Stamford
residents believed middle-income housing should be built downtown
rather than low-income or high-rise luxury housing. In Greenwich, 67 percent said
middle-income housing was the most needed.
Stamford has tried to fight the
housing shortage on several fronts. In 2003, the Board of
Representatives passed an inclusionary housing ordinance that requires
developers to reserve homes for low-and moderate-income buyers or
renters, or pay to have affordable housing built elsewhere. At the same time, the city has added
incentives to build housing for all income levels.
"We folded it in to another concept
and that is making it easier to build housing, period," Mayor Dannel
Malloy said. "It was, 'We want to build thousands of units of housing,
and a percentage of those need to be affordable.' "
In Norwalk, the issue of affordable
housing appears to be gaining wider support. The Greater Norwalk
Chamber of Commerce recently threw its support behind a proposed work
force housing ordinance that would require developers to make a certain
percentage of new units affordable. The proposed local law, which goes up for
a public hearing Dec. 6, would require developers building more than 20
units to make at least 10 percent of them in new multifamily complexes
affordable to a family of four earning less $65,000 a year.
In exchange, developers could
increase project density, transfer units to another project or pay a
fee to a special fund - currently estimated at $218,700 per unit.
The chamber's support appears
to match public sentiment in Norwalk, where 71.5 percent of residents
believe lack of affordable housing is a "very" or "somewhat serious"
problem, according to the poll.
In addition, the poll found a slim
majority of Norwalk residents - about 52 percent - would like to see an
affordable housing in their neighborhood, while 37.5 percent are
"I find that very heartening," said
Dorothy Mobilia, former chairwoman of the city's Zoning
said the need for lower-cost housing becomes apparent when considering
statistics that show more than 50 percent of Norwalk's firefighters,
more than 70 percent of its police officers and more than 75 percent of
its nurses don't live in the city.
"(The survey) shows there may be
some serious thought given to the need for affordable housing,
especially in light of the chamber's position, which would normally be
considered unusual," she said. Mayor Richard Moccia said he has come
around on the issue. Moccia said he had been against codifying a
certain percentage of new units as affordable, fearing it might cause
business and developers to shy away from Norwalk and further shift the
tax burden to homeowners.
But given that several major
developers and the chamber back the 10 percent plan, and that the
housing would benefit the local work force, "those factors led me,
quite honestly, to reconsider my opinion," Moccia said. He said some developers are going far
beyond what the ordinance is seeking: Norwalk-based M.F. DiScala &
Co. plans to build 160 units on Wall and Smith streets in the old city
center and would designate nearly half below market rate, Moccia said.
POKO Partners, which plans a
development on nearby Isaac Street, has pitched a similar plan, he
said. Moccia said one
lingering concern is the state, which he said does little to reward
cities that work to keep housing affordable.
"If the state keeps telling
us 'we want you to keep people in town, keep them off the roads' . . .
they need to do something to reward us," Moccia said, noting that
greater state aid to help pay for education is a possible
Stamford, only a few developments have been built to address the need,
but if all were built, hundreds of affordable homes would be built in
the next decade.
The city also dedicates a portion of
property taxes and building permit fees from the largest projects to
affordable housing, funds a revolving second-mortgage program to help
first-time home buyers, and includes money for public and nonprofit
housing development in the capital budget. Efforts by the city and nonprofit
agencies, backed by banks and corporate employers, and more recently,
state affordable housing grants, are picking up the ball the federal
government has dropped, Malloy said.
With the exception of the Hope VI
program, which pays for rehabilitation of existing public housing
stock, and funding for assisted living facilities, the federal
government no longer finances complexes such as the St. John Towers
apartments on Tresser Boulevard. Tenants pay $500 to $800 per month,
depending on their income and apartment size.
Federal housing loans financed St.
John's construction in the late 1960s, but the complex's nonprofit
board plans to sell one of the three towers for $23 million to finance
rehabilitation of the other two.
"You're not even seeing senior
housing being built," Malloy said. "There is a program to see assisted
living being built. Nobody else is doing what we're doing." The Urban
Redevelopment Commission is requiring the developer of Park Square
West, a four-building apartment and retail development on condemned
downtown land, to make 20 percent of the apartments affordable to
renters who make less than half the area median income.
Renters' incomes must fall under
certain limits, from $40,700 for an individual to $116,300 for a family
of four. One building opened in 2001; the remaining three are working
their way through approvals. The 20 percent requirement is double the
affordable housing requirement for most other areas of the city.
Developments closest to Mill River Park and the Stamford Transportation
Center require 12 percent.
The Jonathan Rose Co. of New York,
which is building the housing component of the Metro Center II office
and residential project development next to the transportation center,
has pledged to make 23 percent of the housing - 48 townhouse-style
apartments - affordable to people making $20,000 to $72,000.
If Antares Investment Partners of
Greenwich builds all of the 4,000 units of housing it has proposed for
its Harbor Point development in the South End, meeting the 10 percent
standard there would mean 400 new affordable homes. Antares officials have said it plans to
build all the homes on site instead of asking to pay an affordable
The first phase of the development,
planned for completion in 2009, would include 93 affordable rentals and
When the Zoning Board allows
developers to pay the fee, the results can provide millions of dollars
to build affordable housing or provide down payment and mortgage
assistance for moderate-income buyers.
The money can go into a city fund or
directly to affordable housing developers.
Though only 5.4 percent of poll
respondents believe the city needs high-rise luxury housing, developers
acknowledge they are aiming at a small market - mostly empty-nesters
and young corporate professionals - willing to pay a hefty premium for
views of Long Island Sound, luxury accommodations, and proximity to
downtown shops and restaurants.
That premium can add up in a hurry.
"We've already collected over $2
million, there's potentially a lot more," Stamford Land Use Bureau
Chief Robin Stein said. Trump
Parc alone would provide $2.9 million for affordable housing. The Highgrove condominium tower at Forest
and Grove streets would add $1.7 million, while the City Place
condominium development on Washington Boulevard would provide another
But a study completed in 2001 found
thousands of affordable homes were needed, so while Stamford is doing
more than most, the attempts have only begun to make a dent in the
"It's all incremental," Stein said.
Affordable housing debate hits home in
By Mar Walker: Hersam Acorn Newspapers
Nov 21, 2006
Connecticut’s young adults and young families are steadily moving away,
draining the state of educated brain power and depleting its workforce,
according to statistics from HomeConnecticut. The organization, which
is the public outreach arm of the Partnership for Strong Communities,
says that Connecticut lost more 20- to 34-year-olds in the last 10
years than any other state in the country.
Town-by-town 2005 statistics on house prices and qualifying mortgage
income from HomeConnecituct hint at why. In Wilton, to qualify for a
mortgage for an $887,500 median-priced home with the 10% down payment
typical of young buyers, a household income of at least $264,770 would
be needed. Wilton’s median household income of $155,261 in 2005 falls
well short of that figure. Even if the buyers could qualify, the
resulting $6,177 monthly mortgage payment is prohibitive for many
occupations across many age groups.
Connecticut’s housing prices have risen 63.6% from 2000 to 2006. That’s
three and a half times the rate of increase for wages here, according
to HomeConnecticut. State businesses are already experiencing labor
shortages because of the trend.
These and other thought-provoking statistics were aired at a recent
symposium on “inclusionary zoning,” a specific regulatory method of
providing affordable housing. The symposium was sponsored by the United
Way and was held at the Danbury Sheraton Hotel.
For towns to meet both their state-mandated 10% of total housing units
in affordable housing and also the needs of their own less fortunate
residents, a broad-based approach is required, Allen Mallach, research
director of the National Housing Institute, said at the meeting. His
broad-based strategy might encompass inclusionary zoning, as well as
dedicated developments created by nonprofit corporations in public-
private partnerships with the towns themselves, as well as accessory
With the inclusionary zoning concept, developers are required to create
a certain number of affordable units no matter what zone they are
building in, whether it’s single-family homes with four-acre zoning or
two-acre zoning, or multifamily zoning. As with open space
requirements, sometimes towns accept a donation to a “set-aside” fund
in lieu of the open space or the affordable housing. In this scenario,
the town would eventually use these funds to build affordable units on
Stamford uses the inclusionary zoning regulations and requires a 10%
affordable set-aside on new construction from builders across all
zones, said Phyllis Kapiloff, chairwoman of Stamford’s zoning board.
Ms. Kapiloff told the symposium that aside from state mandates, the
long-term effort to create underlying regulations and build affordable
units was amply rewarded in a very human way, by the benefit to people
who truly need the housing.
Attendees at the symposium included Paul Valeri of Redding, a builder
who is currently developing the Ryder Farm subdivision in Redding. Mr.
Valeri is chairman of the Nonprofit Development Corporation of Danbury
Inc., an all-volunteer group that builds affordable housing in Danbury,
a city that is currently above its 10% state-mandated quota. Mr. Valeri
said appropriate affordable housing can be built even “in the most
suburban town possible.”
The right thing
“What I hope comes of that session is for the Housatonic Valley Council
of Elected Officials to allow Jonathan Chew (who is its executive
director) to develop a model ordinance that could be adopted by every
single town,” said Mr. Valeri.
“Just because a town doesn’t have town sewers or water — that doesn’t
mean beans. What this is all about is for towns to do the right thing
before they are forced by a developer to do the wrong thing for that
town. Inclusionary zoning allows the town to have architectural review
on affordable housing projects,” he said.
But the regulation has to be written and adopted first. “You could say
for every five lots, one affordable house be built. You can build a
modest Vermont Vernacular, a classic modest farmhouse which everybody
loves and embraces. You can have architectural review on the whole
thing,” he said. He added that when a town takes the initiative, it can
get a contribution to its affordable housing in a way that is
completely compatible with the town’s aesthetics.
Modest homes, as opposed to apartments or condominiums, said Mr.
Valeri, can have a permanent deed restriction, which allows a very
limited appreciation on resale. It gets resold to someone who can
qualify for a CHFA mortgage, he said.
Affordable accessory apartments are deed-restricted for only 10 years.
Other types of affordable developments can carry a 40-year deed
“The bottom line, for those who really take the time to investigate, is
that this can be tastefully achieved. This sort of thing can be pulled
off gracefully to everybody’s delight. It’s a win-win-win situation,”
Mr. Valeri said.
As a sole means of meeting the state mandate, the inclusionary zoning
idea holds a conundrum for any town wanting more nature, not more
houses. If Wilton aimed to get its state-mandated quota of affordable
housing (more than 640 units) through a 10% “set-aside” from new
development, it would have to see 6,400 new housing units built in the
town. Even then, it would not meet the state mandate because its total
number of housing units would have doubled. For multi-family housing
zones, the town has had a 20% “set-aside” requirement for some time,
said Bob Nerney, Wilton’s town planner, who holds a master’s degree in
“It’s a number we will always be chasing,” said Mr. Nerney. “The goal
is not to reach that 10%, it’s to provide affordable housing in town.”
Wilton stands at 2.6% (168 affordable units) of its quota, Mr. Nerney
“There are some apartments, some condominiums. It includes both sales
and rentals. The bulk are rentals. Twenty-four of the units are owned
with deed restrictions that protect the affordability,” he said. “The
town, also, in the early 1990s acquired land from the DOT, and there
are seven affordable units there now, built through a nonprofit
In Wilton, a new proposal is also in the works for Wilton Commons, a
77-unit congregate housing facility for the elderly near the town
center, built through a public/private partnership on town-owned land
under a long-term, low-cost lease to the private nonprofit group.
Despite its efforts, Wilton is in court through the affordable housing
appeals process, Mr. Nerney said.
There is one current appeal by the town against Avalon Bay Communities
for a development of 100 apartments on 10 acres on Danbury Road, he
said. “Thirty percent, or 30 units, would be affordable and
deed-restricted for 40 years,” he said.
Mr. Nerney said the appeals process shifts the burden of proof from the
developer to the town. The statute, the Connecticut Affordable Housing
Appeals Act, states that if a town is not at the 10% threshold, it
loses several means of denying a proposal from a developer earmarking
at least 30% of units as affordable for a length of 40 years.
“And the reasons for denial become much more limited, to just health
and safety. Things like compatibility with the area, compliance with
the plan of conservation and development — all those things go out the
window. All of the those things are generally not considered by the
courts under the affordable housing appeals process,” he said.
Affordable housing programs get $3M
By Tobin A. Coleman
Published June 21 2006
A Stamford nonprofit affordable housing developer yesterday was awarded
the largest share --Ênearly a third -- of the first $10 million
in grants from the state's Housing Trust Fund.
Housing Development Fund Inc. was given $3 million for two affordable
housing programs, one that helps individuals and families qualify for
first-time mortgages and another that helps developers finance
apartments to rent them at below-market rates. Governor M. Jodi
Rell yesterday announced that seven applicants will split the initial
$10 million from the Housing Trust Fund.
"The $100 million Housing Trust Fund was created to address the
critical need for more affordable housing in Connecticut," Rell said in
a statement. "Today's announcement signals the start of these funds
'hitting the streets' and making a real difference in the lives of
Connecticut workers and their families."
The $100 million in state grants will be delivered during a five-year
period. They are given to groups that promote affordable housing
through loans and grants to individuals and developers. The fund is
administered by the state Department of Economic and Community
The Housing Development Fund plans to use $1 million of the grant for
its program that helps families trying to move from rental homes make a
down payment on their first houses.
"We take them through that whole process," Housing Development Fund
Executive Director Joan Carty said in a telephone interview. "Part of
the process is counseling them about what level of mortgage they
qualify for, given household income and whatever savings they have."
The program gives homeowners a no-interest loan, usually $7,000 to
$15,000, enough for them to qualify to buy the home they seek. When the
home is sold, the loan is repaid and the money is lent to the next home
buyer. Carty said the state grant will allow Housing Development
Fund to help 60 to 70 additional families in the program.
The other Housing Development Fund program will receive $1.85 million.
The program will allow affordable housing developers to rent units to
cover the difference between what banks will lend and the funds needed
to start a project that would charge below-market rents.
"This allows the economics of some multifamily projects to work," Carty
said. Some projects are already under consideration in Norwalk,
Bridgeport and Danbury, she said.
The final $150,000 of the grant will help the organization cover
Study-Region 2nd most
2004 (lead story)
By CHRIS BOSAK Norwalk Hour Staff
-- The annual "Out of Reach"
report released Monday confirmed what most people already know: Housing
is expensive in the area.
fact, the Norwalk/Stamford area
is the second-most expensive area in the country, according to the
issued by the Connecticut Housing Coalition and the National Low Income
Housing Coalition. According to the report, a person would have to earn
$27.63 an hour -- or $57,480 a year -- to afford a basic two-bedroom
number is down from last year's
wage of $28.71, reflecting a slight drop in rents in the area. Only San
Francisco, at $29.60, is higher than Norwalk/Stamford. The next five
expensive places are other California metropolitan areas, followed by
Westchester (N.Y) County and Nassau/Suffolk on Long Island. "We're
second or third," said Margaret Suib, Norwalk's fair housing officer.
the Norwalk/Stamford area, the
annual median family income is $111,600. That's such a high median. For
those not in the upper echelon, that makes houses that much less
Suib stressed that the report's analysis is not necessarily bad news
the area. She said it's an indicator that the economy is doing well in
the area, "so we don't want to change that."
said more affordable housing
in the area is the best way to address the issue. Connecticut was
the sixth most expensive state in the country. Fairfield County was not
one of the top 10 most expensive counties. The top nine most expensive
counties are all in California. The report found that many full-time
do not earn enough to live in the Norwalk/Stamford area.
Sen.-elect Bob Duff, D-25th
District, said it is one of several issues that are playing off each
as hot-button topics for local legislatures to handle. The
problems plaguing the area only worsen as workers are forced to commute
from other towns. Then there's the question of what transportation
to tackle: improving Interestate 95 or the rail system. "A lot of this
is tied in together," said Duff, who was recently appointed chairman of
the General Assembly's Housing Committee.
who is also a Realtor, said
the average price of a house in Norwalk nine years ago when he got his
start in real estate was $150,000. Now it is more than $600,000.
is expensive, but the towns around us are even more out of reach," he
to the report, low-income
households are those that earn 30 percent or less of an area's median
In this area that is a household earning $33,480 or less. The report
assumes the standard that housing affordability is when a household
no more than 30 percent of its gross income.
(the report's) numbers are
good," Suib said. "Everyone seems to rely on the report." According to
the report, a single parent living in the Norwalk/Stamford area making
minimum wage ($7.10 an hour) would have to work 156 hours a week to
a two-bedroom apartment. The report, which uses rental figures
by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development surveys, claims the
fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Norwalk/Stamford
in the area should be $837,
using the 30 percent of area median income standard. "It's supposed to
be that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to
a roof over your kids' heads," Jeffrey Freiser, executive director of
Connecticut Housing Coalition, said in a release. "Our state can and
do more to make housing affordable for struggling families."
view the report, visit http://nlihc.org
Richest 2% own 'half the wealth'
By Andrew Walker, Economics correspondent, BBC World Service
5 December 2006
The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all
household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research
institute. The report, from the World Institute for Development
Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of
the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth.
There have of course been many studies of worldwide inequality.
But what is new about this report, the authors say, is its
coverage. It deals with all countries in the world - either
actual data or estimates based on statistical analysis - and it deals
with wealth, where most previous research has looked at income.
What they mean by wealth in this study is what people own, less what
they owe - their debts. The assets include land, buildings, animals and
The analysis shows, as have many other less comprehensive studies,
striking divergences in wealth between countries. Wealth is
heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and some countries in the
Asia Pacific region, such as Japan and Australia. These countries
account for 90% of household wealth.
The study also finds that inequality is sharper in wealth than in
annual income. And it uncovers some striking differences in the
types of assets that dominate in different countries. In less
developed nations, land and farm assets are more important, reflecting
the greater importance of agriculture in those economies. In addition,
the report says the weighting is the result of "immature" financial
institutions, which make it much harder for people to have savings
accounts or shares.
In contrast, some citizens of the rich countries have more debt than
assets - making them, the report says, among the poorest in the world
in terms of household wealth.
However, they are presumably better off in terms of what they consume
than many people in developing countries.
The survey is based on data for the year 2000. The authors say a more
recent year would have involved more gaps in the data. As it is, many
figures - especially for developing countries - have had to be
estimated. Nonetheless, the authors say it is the most
comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken.
Why does it matter? Because wealth serves as insurance against times
when income tends to fall, such as unemployment, sickness or old age.
It is also a source of finance for small businesses, a particularly
important point since it is the countries with lower levels of personal
wealth which also tend to have weaker financial systems without the
funds, ability or inclination to lend to small firms.
The report is not about policy recommendations.
But one of the authors, Professor Anthony Shorrocks, says it does draw
attention to the importance of enhancing banking systems in developing
countries to help generate the funds for business investment.
Please remember that "About Weston" is not an official website or
Southwestern Regional Housing Needs Assessment 2007:
for all eight towns with identified locations where
housing might locate, based upon some, if not all of criteria.
The INTRODUCTION of SWRPA's 2007 document (above).
Sewer Service Map 2007 and
aerial photograph of Weston Center general area - note that the circle
includes part of Wilton, the section of School Road in Weston not
served by tertiary treatment, the West Branch of the Saugatuck River,
and several other points of interest, natural features or limiting
factors to more intense development than the carrying capacity of wells
and septics systems can handle.
The map at
the left shows existing sewered areas (brown stripe) and public
water supply (blue); sub-area #21 in the Region and blow up.
GUESS WHERE THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
Weston Town Meeting some years ago purchased the development
rights to the Nature Conservancy for open space prices.
THE GOLF - POLO MAP
Yellow is turf and grass, red is
developed (roads) and green in
varying shades are forest or forest wetland. Anything that looks blue at this scale is a REALLY big
body of water (guess which one is the biggest - yup, the Saugatuck
is a most interesting report and we link to our Regional Plan page to see where we
think it fits in!
Conn. 3rd in nation in credit card debt
Posted on Jul 30, 12:58 PM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- A new study says Connecticut is third in the nation in
median credit card debt, following only Alaska and New Hampshire.
The study by Americans for Fairness in Lending says Alaska leads all
states with debt of $3,384. New Hampshire came in second with $2,109 in
median debt, and Connecticut was third with $2,094 in debt.
The report released on Wednesday was based on 2006 year-end information
from TransUnion, one of the nation's credit bureaus.
The states with the lowest median credit card debt are Mississippi,
Iowa and West Virginia.
is tops in tax burden
By Brian Lockhart, Staff Writer
Published March 30 2007
As if Gov. M. Jodi Rell does not have a hard enough time selling her
income tax increases to Gold Coast residents, her job has been further
complicated by a Republican congressman and a nonpartisan fiscal
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, and the Washington,
D.C.-based Tax Foundation are shining separate spotlights on how much
money lower Fairfield County and the entire state already shell out to
the government. Shays issued a statement condemning the passage
yesterday by the House of Representatives of a $2.9 trillion federal
budget that he estimates would hike the average Connecticut resident's
tax bill by $4,311. Hardest hit would be his district of lower
Fairfield County, Shays said, because the budget allows President
Bush's tax cuts to expire.
"The bottom line is the tax cuts benefit our district better than
almost any other in the country . . . because of our wealth," Shays
That wealth is what lands the Stamford/Norwalk region at the top of the
Tax Foundation's latest survey, from 2004, of U.S. areas paying the
highest federal taxes. The average household pays $82,745 in
federal taxes - more than the combined totals of the second and third
runners up, according to the Tax Foundation's report. San Francisco
pays the second highest federal taxes at $36,409; San Jose, Calif., the
third highest at $34,577.
The foundation also said Connecticut as a whole pays the most federal
taxes, followed by New Jersey and Massachusetts.
"Nothing operates in a vacuum," Rell spokesman Rich Harris said
yesterday, acknowledging that the statements from Shays and the Tax
Foundation do not make the Republican governor's job any easier.
But Harris said Rell's income tax hike is part of a package that would
provide municipalities with $3.4 billion more in school aid, cut car
taxes, phase out the estate tax and require cities and towns to limit
their property tax increases to 3 percent.
"The governor's budget has to be looked at in the context of not just
the income tax," Harris said. "When you look at her proposal, it
effectively takes the burden off the local property tax. That is a
problem for every community in the state, but it's clearly an issue in
Fairfield County and on Connecticut's coastline."
But Rell has yet to convince Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat,
or Richard Moccia, Norwalk's Republican mayor. And Fairfield County
legislators, including House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero,
R-Norwalk, have all indicated a wariness of the tax increases.
Shays said that even if Rell's budget is not passed, she has made a tax
increase acceptable for the General Assembly's Democratic majority.
At a legislative forum Wednesday in Stamford, House Majority Leader
James Amann, D-Milford, reiterated his support for a gradual income tax
increase for incomes of $150,000 to $200,000. Amann has said this
would protect the middle class by targeting the state's wealthy - many
of them living in lower Fairfield County - who benefited from the Bush
Shays countered that not only would those residents lose those cuts,
but they would wind up paying them back to the state if the legislature
has its way.
"We pay the most taxes anywhere in the country, and we're going to now
get hit doubly hard. . . . That would be an outrage," Shays said. "I
have constituents who have told me they could move to Florida.
"Based on their income and the tax they pay Connecticut, what they save
by moving to Florida is enough to buy them a home and pay their
property taxes. So they basically say 'I can live, in essence, for
Housing that is affordable: how
to provide for it in Washington State: CPA 210/08 Affordable Housing Amendments:
not yet adopted.
As proposed for public hearing by the Island County
Proposed amendments (staff report) in bold letters: