FAIRFIELD, Conn. – For the first time in 25 years, Fairfield will take a look at how it can develop more affordable housing within its borders.
Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart and the Fairfield Affordable Housing Committee announced a project to rewrite Fairfield’s 25-year-old Affordable Housing Plan. The committee said it hopes that a new plan will better reflect the current realities of Fairfield’s market.
“The town has made significant strides, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done,” Barnhart said Wednesday.
Fairfield’s current plan was written in 1988 under the Jackie Durrell administration. The policy called for developing homes for the elderly and low-income families through a combination of public-private partnerships, tax incentives, town-run loan programs and encouraging non-profit organizations.
Since then Fairfield has added 353 units of designated affordable housing, according to a 2011 report by the Affordable Housing Committee. The inventory includes 266 apartments at senior housing complexes, 47 owner-occupied homes designated for low-income families and 21 rental units in multi-family houses with deed restrictions requiring below-market rents.
But Fairfield still has an “income gap” between the income needed to buy an average home in town and its median household income, the 2011 report says.
Fairfield’s median home value that year was $549,000. The committee calculated that, with modern mortgage rates, a family would need to make about $134,742 per year to afford a house worth that much. Fairfield’s median household income in 2011 was $113,248, a difference of more than $21,000.
The town plans to work on its plan over the next year and have a formal policy ready by January 2014. In the meantime, the committee will hold public outreach sessions to work with different groups that would be affected by the changes, including developers and neighbors.
“We see this as a very collaborative, consensus-building process,” Barnhart said.
Fairfield will also reach out to other towns that have made or are making similar plans, especially those that are as heavily-developed as Fairfield.
“When you’re looking at a community that’s 95, 96 percent built out, there’s not a lot of available land or opportunity, so you have to be creative,” First Selectman Michael Tetreau said.