Affordable housing coming one step at a time

As the need for attainable housing in Northwest Connecticut grows, Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity (LCCHO) reported that progress is being made one step at a time.

Jocelyn Ayer, director of the center, addressed the Northwest Hills Council of Governments at its January meeting for an update.

Her presentation explained the various efforts underway by regional organizations and the roadmap for what is to come in 2024.

“We are supporting a pipeline of 143 new affordable housing units that could be in construction by the end of this year if we can work together with the local housing nonprofits, the towns and the Department of Housing to get them funded quickly,” said Ayer.

The 143 new units will be spread across the county with 18 distinct projects in development. Locations include Barkhamsted, Cornwall, Falls Village, Goshen, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, Norfolk, Salisbury, Sharon, Warren, Washington and Winchester.

Each project is being developed with input from municipal stakeholders in the respective towns.

Ayer also reported a new planning grant opportunity to promote partnerships between local housing organizations, conservation groups, and town leaders. Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, Housatonic Valley Association and LCCHO awarded a combined $19,500 toward this effort.

The funds were granted to benefit Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and Foundation for Community Health’s common service area: Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, and Warren.

“We all need conserved open space and we all need affordable housing, so how do we really create an environment where we can have those conversations as opportunities come up to make the best use of the limited land that we have available out there?” said Ayers.

To track affordable housing demand and available stock, LCCHO is unveiling a new online platform with data from all Litchfield County towns. The platform is expected to be completed in February, at which time it will be shared with town leaders throughout the region.

“You’ll be able to search for your town and get specific housing data on your housing stock, your demographics,and your housing needs,” said Ayer.

In 2023 there were 1,111 households on waiting lists for affordable rental housing in the 21 towns that comprise the COG.

2024 legislative outlook

Also at the January meeting of the Council of Governments, Betsy Gara, executive director of Connecticut’s Council of Small Towns, provided an outlook for the upcoming legislative session.

She highlighted the issues worth keeping an eye on, including a push for increased state funding toward special education costs, the promotion of shared services between municipalities, and the potential repeal of the state car tax.

“There is a task force that has been meeting quite regularly to look at whether or not the state can eliminate the car tax in entirety and then replace it with some alternative revenue streams,” said Gara. “We are very concerned about that because the car tax — hate it or love it — is a considerable amount of revenue for our towns and we are nervous that if they end up eliminating it and replacing it with an alternative revenue stream that it may not be sustainable over time.”

Gara acknowledged the lack of progress in regard to municipal solid waste management. Following the closure of the incinerator in Hartford, Connecticut towns are on their own when it comes to trash removal.

“It’s continuing to be a very difficult issue for our municipalities,” said Gara.

Contracts with the state expire in 2027, by which time towns will need a new place to put the trash.

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