WALLINGFORD — A plan for 10 housing units, three of which would be rented under the state’s affordable housing statutes, at 862 North Farms Road sailed through the Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday night.
Developer Bob Wiedenmann said he chose to file under the state statute for several reasons, including to show other developers that smaller developments are feasible with an affordable component. Generally, affordable housing projects are large complexes that have a small number of units rented under those guidelines.
Wiedenmann said that he has been building homes for more than 40 years and has built more than 1,000 homes in the area in that time.
“Quite honestly, very few of those would be considered affordable by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. Most of the homes have been built on larger lots, so it becomes cost prohibitive to be able to price them in what would be considered an affordable range, he said.
There are two reasons he decided to make this an affordable project, he said.
“The first is to show the public that providing a development with slightly higher density and different housing options that we typically see in a conventional subdivision not only can be done without adversely impacting the neighborhood, but also the municipality as a whole,” he said.
There are benefits to the type of housing he is proposing, he said. His target market for the units includes older people who may have lived in Wallingford all their lives, but now need to downsize and may not be able to afford housing options available, he said. On the other end of the spectrum, he is targeting young people who might’ve grown up in Wallingford, but now can’t afford the cost of their first home because they are just starting out, he said. “So this is the kind of thing that we would market to both of those demographics,” he said.
He also wants to demonstrate to builders “that they can do this type of development and provide much needed housing, and also do it profitably,” he said. “Very rarely do you see a project submitted under 8-30g that’s not a much larger project, and sometimes it is much larger projects which do have some impacts, but I wanted to be able to do this on a small scale to show my fellow builders around the state that this can be done profitably and tastefully and I think with consideration to the immediate neighborhood.”
State statute 8-30g lays out the requirements of an affordable housing project. Affordable housing and low income housing are two different things, though they are often confused. Low income housing is state subsidized housing, primarily for very low income people who qualify for state funds to go toward their rent. Affordable housing is deed restricted and can only be rented or sold under the guidelines of the statute, mandating incomes that meet a scale based on the median income. While affordable housing rents are lower than market rate, they are still near it.
The project is located immediately south of the North Farms Fire station. The site is about one acre where there is now an old multi-family house that will be demolished.
“Three of the 10 units will have a deed restriction to maintain the affordability for a term of 40 years,” Wiedenmann said. There will be five homes with two units in each home, he said. Each will have a one-bedroom unit on the first floor and a two-bedroom unit on the second floor, with the second bedroom being over the garage. There also will be a full basement that will provide storage space for the tenants, he said.
“One of the big goals that we have with this application was to provide the increase density without it looking like a high density multi-family-type development where you would typically see town houses,” he said. “We considered other options but we felt this is a nice transition between the firehouse and the residential single-family houses across the street,” he said. “We are trying to create a transition between those single family homes and what we consider a commercial use with the fire station but we really wanted to look and feel single-family residential.”
Commission chairman Jim Seichter said one fault he finds with the affordable housing statute is that there’s a time limit placed on the deeds rather than the conditions being permanent. Under the statute, a municipality is subject to the statute as long as its deed restricted affordable housing count is under 10%. But by putting a limit on the number of years, the deed restriction is in place, that number will fluctuate as the restrictions expire.
“From my perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. In 2002, the town had 7.3% of its units, deed restricted affordable, he said, but by 2022 we’re down to 4.03%.
“It’s one of those things that didn’t quite make sense to me. If we are looking for affordable housing,” he said, “I would think that in any community we would want that affordable housing, permanent.”