Town officials say they’re looking into whether a privately owned, 1979-built apartment complex on Lakeview Avenue could be right for redevelopment with a greater number of affordable units.
Located near the corner of Route 123, Canaan Parish includes 60 apartments and its tenants get rental assistance through the Section 8 federal housing program. It is owned by Stamford-based New Canaan Neighborhoods Inc., whose president is town resident Chris Hussey, according to Connecticut Secretary of the State records.
According to Scott Hobbs, who serves as chairman of the New Canaan Housing Authority, the site likely “is not as well utilized as modern layout would, so if we could rejuvenate some of it, it would make sense.” “The reality is that it would make more sense to tear it down and rearrange everything and get more units in there,” Hobbs told members of the Board of Finance at their regular meeting Tuesday night, held at Town Hall. “And I believe by doing that, we hopefully would possibly get to the second moratorium.”
He referred to a four-year moratorium from the state’s Affordable Housing Appeals Act, often called by its statute number, 8-30g. Under the law, towns such as New Canaan that fall short of a rigorous standard whereby 10 percent of all housing stock qualify as “affordable” under the state’s definition, are subject to a developer loophole. Under the loophole, a developer who designates a percentage of units in a project as “affordable” may get around the decision of a municipal planning commission.
There’s a provision (a complicated provision) in the state law that could yield a multi-year moratorium of the Affordable Housing Appeals Act. Under the provision, types of housing are assigned a certain number of points based on variables such as how much they cost (in mortgage payments or rent) and who they serve (seniors or families). If a town amasses enough “housing unit equivalent” points, it can earn a four-year exemption.
The first such exemption (and possibly several points toward a second one) is expected to arrive Jan. 1 or thereabouts, when the CO is expected to be issued for the affordable housing redevelopment at Mill Pond.
Hobbs said officials representing Canaan Parish had approached the Housing Authority about ways the two groups may help each other—for example, by finding operational efficiencies in property management that would serve the tenants even better than they are now.
The finance board approved 8-0 a $190,000 allocation from New Canaan’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, some $50,000 of which will go to engineering studies of the Canaan Parish site, Hobbs said
The Board of Selectmen had approved the same allocation 3-0 at its meeting Tuesday morning. Addressing the selectmen there, Town Planner Steve Kleppin said it had appeared that the apartments now in place at Canaan Parish—20 one-bedroom, 32 two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom units—had been built atop and around rocky outcroppings.
Noting Kleppin’s observation, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said during the finance board meeting’s that developers have more ability now to “flatten out the landscape” which may create a better opportunity for denser development at Canaan Parish.