Southington leaders, residents debate affordable housing



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SOUTHINGTON – Town leaders and residents offered different perspectives on affordable housing in Southington Tuesday night, with some pointing to the variety of housing options in town and others concerned about rising real estate costs.

The public information session at the Weichsel Municipal Center is part of an affordable housing study required by the state.

Glenn Chalder is president of Planimetrics, the company Southington hired to conduct the study. He said housing costs have risen so that more and more people are paying more than a third of their income for a home.

“Housing was much more affordable in the 1960s relative to income than it is today,” Chalder said. More than a quarter of Southington households earn less than $50,000 per year.

“There’s not always housing for people at modest income levels,” he said.

The state’s goal is for 10 percent of a town’s housing stock to be affordable, defined as costing a median-earning household no more than 30 percent of its income. According to the latest state tally, Southington has about half that goal.

Some speakers on Tuesday said there are a host of affordable housing options in town but they don’t meet the state’s criteria, such as being deed-restricted affordable housing. Speakers mentioned mobile homes, which are cheap housing options but aren’t considered affordable by the state.

“They are among the most affordable units,” said Pamela DePaolo, “Southington has a good number of mobile homes.”

DePaolo said the town should avoid “high-rise, multi-floor apartments” and other housing she feels would change the town’s character.

Richard Cooper, a town resident, urged town planners to consider younger residents and the rising cost of living.

Peter Santago, a Planning and Zoning Commission member, said he couldn’t remember the last time a housing development was proposed that wasn’t age-restricted or single family homes costing a half a million dollars or more. He wanted to hear ideas on how to encourage housing that might be more affordable for younger families and lower income residents.

Jim Sakonchick, president of Kratzert, Jones and Associates, said a developer has to make money in order to build a house. Smaller houses aren’t likely to recoup a developer’s costs.

“We should be looking into changing our zoning regulations so those become affordable,” he said. “Zoning regulations that increase the cost by large setbacks and many other things make those unaffordable.”

Michael Riccio, a local developer, said Southington has a wide variety of housing options and shouldn’t adopt policies that have failed in some cities. Those moving to Southington want its suburban character and have worked for that lifestyle.

“We are the quintessential suburb. By no means should we be embarrassed by that,” Riccio said.

Santago said residents urge him to resist new development and preserve undeveloped land, goals he feels are “flying in the face” of affordable housing.

Bob Hammersley, planning committee chairman, said he didn’t see the two objectives as opposed and didn’t want them pitted against each other.

Input from Tuesday’s meeting will help develop the town’s affordable housing plan. Those with suggestions on affordable housing can contact Town Planner Maryellen Edwards. Her email address is edwardsm@southington.org.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ



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