In my home state of Connecticut, state statute 8-30g went into effect on July 1, 1990, which set quotas for towns in Connecticut to provide a minimum amount of housing affordable to median income earners. Enforcement of this statute begins with leaving each municipality to decide how to comply, either utilizing existing houses or multiple-dwelling units, or to develop property as needed, until a point where if too much time of non-compliance elapses, when the state shall send the barbarians knocking on the door. The quota is twenty to thirty percent and the median income varies as it is affected by inflation and the state of the global and local economies.
In my home town of Oxford, the town is contemplating a plan to develop three sites along the main drag, S.R. 67, as these homes must be located in areas of town that have both city water and city sewers. The plan involves mainly two-family town houses with twenty percent being affordable to median income earners. Opposition from a group known as KOG (Keep Oxford Green) is concerned about open space and would prefer single-family houses and not exhausting all three sites to preserve some green space. Newly elected first selectman George Temple (R) opposes the plan, but is concerned about the town of Oxford losing its right to comply with 8-30g the way it sees fit as the barbarians are coming.
I am a big supporter of open space and green land; one thing I was involved in my last ten years living in the city of Norwalk down in Fairfield County was saving the Fodor Farm property from a proposed forty-seven house development on nine acres of land in an ultra-congested area with limited open space. I was proud to work with the Brookside Neighborhood Association, the Land Trust Organization, and a various cast of characters in city hall including then Mayor Frank Esposito, who is related to my mother by marriage. Today, Fodor Farm is considered historic and is an active organic vegetable farm set up for visitors. Luckily, this was not an 8-30g issue.
I think the battle here in Oxford needs to be fought on a different battleground. As I see it, 8-30g was enacted in 1990 as a final relic of the end of the baby boomer era; and although affordable housing for median incomes is important, I think quotas have to be revised for the post-baby boom era. The collapse of the real estate market in early 2007 has led to a lot of foreclosures which has resulted in a lot of homes in rural districts to approach median income affordability. The housing market will never make a full recovery, even in a booming economy with a fruitful job market. The underlying cause is the fact that post baby boom generations are smaller in size and there are too many houses and not enough nuclear families to live in them. If single-family homes drop in price to median income affordability, why would a median income earner want to buy a town house off a state high in a commercial overlay district? This will turn these three developments into semi-ghost towns and their appearance will deteriorate over time. A suburb in Cleveland, Ohio (CBSNews.com/60minutes) has resorted to tearing down run-down, unmaintained, empty houses to create more open land, more land per home, and reduce the supply and demand curve adversely affecting real estate. It makes no sense; build homes while homes are being torn down.
I fully understand the Oxford (and I am sure there are other Connecticut small towns in the same predicament) looking for a compromise plan that will comply with 8-30g and as much as supporting the IHOZ (Incentive Housing Overlay Zone) will always be against my better judgment and breaks my heart, in fairness it may be a better alternative than letting the state decide how Oxford should comply; if we are stuck with 8-30g as is. But before the town does anything rash and makes a fatal mistake, let’s take it to the state and ask the General Assembly to devise a bill to revise 8-30g for the twenty-first century. I believe once the case is stated, most of Hartford will see it our way clear the way for a twenty-first century solution.