Plan to Double Affordable Housing at Mill Pond Stalls


A project that would more than double the number of affordable housing units at Millport Apartments hit a speed bump Tuesday night.

Preliminary plans call for 60 to 70 additional units to be built on property located opposite Mill Pond.

Millport Apartments (the rebuilt section). Credit: Michael Dinan

Millport Apartments (the rebuilt section). Credit: Michael Dinan

Pending more details, the Board of Finance at its regular meeting put off approving a measure that would see $500,000 made available to the New Canaan Housing Authority to pursue that plan. Those funds—collected through a 1 percent add-on fee in some building permit applications (ones that deal with exterior work only)—are held in trust for the purpose of boosting New Canaan’s affordable housing stock.

Finance board members, including Mary Davis Cody and John Sheffield, questioned the prudence of signing off on the $500,000 without details on just how the funds would be used for pre-construction architectural and engineering studies. They said the town must also have a better sense of how much the construction itself would cost, prior to approving access to the $500,000 fund for the Housing Authority.

“This group is in flux and it is clear that there are more questions that need to be answered,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who serves as finance board chairman, said during the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center’s Visitors Center.

Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Simpkin. Credit: Michael Dinan

Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Simpkin. Credit: Michael Dinan

Though no architectural renderings are available, Housing Authority Commissioner Bernard Simpkin said at the meeting that the agency has purchased two residences on Millport Avenue down the hill from the medical building up on East Avenue, and eventually would raze them and develop 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units there (down the hill). Currently, there are 58 units at Millport Avenue, including 18 “up the hill,” back behind recently rebuilt housing there. Simpkin said the long-term plan is for new construction to get underway and once those units were up, the Housing Authority would seek to rebuild the apartments up the hill while re-housing residents in the new buildings.

Here’s the area we’re talking about, article continues below:

Because less than 10 percent of New Canaan’s housing stock qualifies as “affordable” under the state’s definition of that term, the town is susceptible to a state law known as the Affordable Housing Appeals Act.

It allows developers to skirt decisions from local planning officials by designating a percentage of units within their building plans as “affordable.” Developers of the contentious, litigious 10-unit “Jelliff Mill Falls” project (now underway) at one point put forward a plan that would’ve used the state law to see the development go forward. (Eventually, an agreement was reached whereby developers paid the town $200,000 toward affordable housing and proceeded with construction.)

New Canaan has a long way to go to meet the 10 percent threshold whereby the town would be exempt from the state law.

According to the most recent data from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, 2.42 percent of New Canaan’s housing stock is “affordable” under the state’s definition.

Here’s how New Canaan stacks up with some other municipalities of Fairfield County:

  • Darien: 2.62%
  • Fairfield: 2.63%
  • Greenwich: 4.88%
  • New Canaan: 2.42%
  • Norwalk: 11.37%
  • Redding: 0%
  • Ridgefield: 2.2%
  • Stamford: 15.41%
  • Weston: .03%
  • Westport: 2.71%
  • Wilton: 2.55%

Housing is defined by the state as “affordable” if its cost—in the form of rent or a mortgage—comes to less than 30 percent of the region’s median family income. New Canaan (and the rest of lower Fairfield County) falls in what HUD calls the “Norwalk-Stamford Metropolitan Area,” whose estimated median family income is $115,300 for a 4-person family.

New Canaan’s current 183 affordable units include 140 government-assisted (mostly between Millport and Canaan Parish, up at the top of Lakeview by 123), 31 deed restricted and 10 tenant rental assistance, as well as two CHFA mortgages. With 70 more, New Canaan would go up to 3.3 percent affordable housing.

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