Monday, October 26, 2009

Where I Stand on Affordable Housing in Darien

How I Stand on Affordable Housing in Darien, CT.

Affordable housing is one of the big issues in the current race for First Selectman in Darien, CT. Candidate David Campbell says he wants to study the matter more and fight the state law (8-30g). Candidate Callie Sullivan, who is already serving as a Selectman, says we have to comply with the state law and that the current Board of Selectmen have a plan in place that we need to implement.

I've been giving the whole issue a lot of thought and have changed my initial opinion. Here is where I net out, now.

1. The state law says we have to affordable housing as 10% of our housing stock.
2. We cannot afford to say we will continue to fight the law or just not follow it.
3. Providing affordable housing and having an affordable housing plan are the right things to do.
a. Teachers, town employees, recent college graduates and seniors all would like to be able to afford to live in Darien. They are the people who would live in local affordable housing.
4. While we don’t comply with the law, developers can build anything they want, anywhere they want, as long as the development has some affordable units in it. They can get around our zoning laws.
5. Fighting these developers is expensive and time consuming for the town and for residents, who are spending big bucks on litigation defending their neighborhoods.
6. We can achieve a temporary moratorium on the law’s impact on Darien by building more affordable housing as soon as possible. Then, we can band with other towns to try to change the laws in Hartford.
7. The affordable housing plan that the Selectmen created, and Callie Sullivan and David Bayne support, includes affordable housing at 35 Leroy, redevelopment and expansion at Allen-O’Neill, legal accessory apartments, and affordable apartments in commercial buildings.
8. The old library (35 Leroy) is a good spot for affordable housing because:
a. We own the land and have a developer lined up.
b. The developer is going to be responsible for the property’s upkeep while awaiting permits and financing.
c. The neighbors have agreed it’s OK.
d. The attractive building will remain.
e. It’s near public transportation.
f. It will produce income for the town.
9. While the old library would make a very nice senior center, it would cost millions of dollars to renovate. The current senior center has a professional kitchen and a gym. The seniors get nutritious hot lunches. The gym is used not only for the seniors, but also for the Darien Arts Council for dance classes and other activities for kids. This makes it a useful resource for many.
10. I believe we should renovate the current Senior Center when we have the funds to invest. I also believe that a public/private partnership should be established to enable this to happen. This building could also be used more widely for the good of the entire community, when the seniors are not there.

In conclusion, providing affordable housing is the law. We simply have to do it.

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