Officials on Tuesday took a step toward securing four additional years of relief from a widely criticized state law that allows developers to skirt local planning decisions in towns such as New Canaan, where a low percentage of all housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s narrow definition.
The Board of Selectmen voted 2-0 to approve $170,000 to be transferred from a specially designated town fund to the New Canaan Housing Authority. That agency is working with Canaan Parish, a Section 8 housing complex at Lakeview Avenue and Route 123, on plans to redevelop the apartments there with greater density in order to better use the land there and help New Canaan achieve a second four-year “moratorium” under the state law.
Early-stage plans call for the 60-unit development to get to about 100 total units, Housing Authority Board Secretary Bernard Simpkin told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held in Town Hall.
“We’ve already chosen an architect and now the next stage is doing the design, the engineering and all those things,” Simpkin said.
He was joined in addressing Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams by David McCarthy, a consultant and founder of Heritage Housing Inc. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan was at a funeral and not in attendance.
Devereaux asked what height the new buildings would be when the project is completed. Simpkin said that though the design specifics still are to come, the plan is to try and preserve Canaan Parish’s current appearance. Tenants at a recent meeting expressed concerns about Canaan Parish becoming a townhouse- versus apartment-style development, he said.
Asked whether the site is large enough to accommodate an additional 40-plus units, Simpkin said yes because it currently is not built out to its full potential.
According to McCarthy, New Canaan with its project at Millport Avenue triggered a moratorium now underway and got about 80 percent of the way toward a second moratorium from the Affordable Housing Appeals Act, which would take the town through 2021. The project envisioned at Canaan Parish will lock down that moratorium and also get the town all but about 30 units away from a third one, he said.
Just where the town finds land to build those units, no one knows, officials have said.
According to McCarthy, as per the Uniform Relocation Act, all of those who reside in housing complexes being rebuilt with greater density must be moved in a respectful manner to similar accommodations.
Williams asked McCarthy to sketch out the terms of eligibility for residents of Canaan Parish. He said families must earn about 50 percent of the Stamford-Norwalk Metro area’s median income—about $70,000 for a family of four.
The Board of Finance on Tuesday approved the same $170,000 allocation to the Housing Authority. Town Council approval is needed to make it final.