SOUTHINGTON — Town zoning officials unanimously approved an affordable housing plan, although any local changes suggested in the plan would require a subsequent vote.
The plan was prepared by Glenn Chalder of Planimetrics, a consultant hired by the town. The study he produced on affordable housing in Southington was prompted by a state requirement.
State officials consider housing affordable if it consumes no more than a third of the income of a household making 80 percent of the state median income.
For a family of four, that’s about $90,000 a year in income. An apartment or house should cost no more than $2,240 a month for it to be considered affordable.
The plan, adopted Tuesday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission, included a survey of the housing state officials consider affordable in Southington. Those total less than 1,000 housing units.
Chalder estimated that more than 8,000 would qualify based on price but didn’t meet other state requirements such as having a deed restriction that keeps rent or housing prices from rising above the affordable level.
Those additional restrictions on what the state considers affordable frustrated local planners. Bob Hammersley, Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, described the state’s definition as “antiquated, arbitrary and capricious” as well as “restrictive and unrealistic.”
“This plan demonstrates that Southington has housing that’s both diverse and affordable,” Hammersley said. “Connecticut’s statutes and regulations are broken when it comes to affordable housing.”
The town and state have to consider affordable housing in a comprehensive manner, he said. A discussion on affordable housing should include its definition as well as how to increase affordable housing without discounting a town’s desire to preserve open space and the environmental impact of development.
Peter Santago, a planning commission member, said part of the affordable housing effort should be finding a way for some of the existing low-priced housing in Southington to count towards the state’s goal.
“How do we work toward converting those (8,000 housing units) into affordable housing?” Santago asked.
Sev Bovino, a planner with Kratzert, Jones & Associates in Milldale, spoke in favor of the plan during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting.
Bovino, who’s represented a host of developers in Southington, was supportive of some of the plan’s suggestions for increasing affordable housing in town. Those included allowing for smaller lot sizes, smaller homes and allowing apartments on the second floor over businesses. None of those specific proposals were acted upon during Tuesday’s meeting.
By allowing apartments in underused second floors, Bovino said housing could be increased in town.
The state’s goal for Southington is for 10 percent of the town’s housing stock to meet the state definition of affordable. Hammersley said the purpose of the affordable housing effort is to meet that goal, not to increase housing overall.
“If you increase stock without addressing the affordable housing number, we’re actually moving the number backwards,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Buchanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.