U.S. Rep. Jim Himes believes that the affordable housing statute 8-30g, the very law intended to help compensate for the lack of affordable housing statewide, has problems that can actually prevent the building of such housing.
"It allows the developers to override Planning and Zoning. The municipality loses control, and the outcome is not a good one," Himes, D-4th District, said when he sat down with members of Main Street Connect's editorial team. He praised towns such as Darien and Stamford in being aggressive in trying to build affordable housing, even though it is hard to do.
Another problem is that land is so expensive that it can be pricey for developers to even purchase land, much less construct the housing units. "They're almost already priced out just buying the land."
Instead, towns should have more incentive from local, state and federal government. "It can't be one of those entities," he said. "The towns should have good, smart inclusionary zoning. It's important that the state guarantees subsidy dollars, and the federal government provides tax credits to subsidize construction."
But affordable housing can conjure up negative images in people's minds, Himes said. "Once you use the term 'affordable housing,' the community shuts down. People imagine shelters and homeless communities."
Himes says designating specific developments as "affordable" sends the wrong message. "You don't want to concentrate poor people. You want to have a good mix of low income, middle income and high income in one building," he said.
"Stamford is a real model of how affordable housing should be done. It has a real New York City feel to it. There's not much segregation."
All levels of government need to change the way affordable housing is approached in order to make towns more diverse without hurting the community, he said.
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