WOODBURY — An Affordable Housing Plan, required by state statute, drew limited public comment during a hearing on Wednesday, October 6, held as part of the Planning Commission’s meeting.
After officially closing the hearing, the commission briefly discussed the plan before deciding to wait for some possible changes before taking any action.
The changes, suggested by the public in attendance, mostly focus on implementation, the agency concluded before asking Town Planner Will Agresta to draft an approval for review at the November meeting.
Those items include holding a joint land use board meeting to fully introduce the plan to the members so that it may inform their future decisions on related matters. It also includes a suggestion that the commission offer an annual report on implementation and results to the Board of Selectmen.
During the hearing portion, John Guszkowski of the Tyche Planning and Policy Group, the consultant who drafted the plan, outlined its main components, discussed some of the research that went into its design and the difference between capital “A” and small “a” affordable housing.
“Capital A” housing is income restricted, possibly subsidized, housing that meets the 8-30g definition. It is the type of housing that meets the requirements for the 10% minimum the state is asking of all municipalities.
The “small a” housing occurs naturally and can be accessory units, as an example. The plan primarily addresses what the town can do to encourage the small “a” type, naturally occurring housing.
Mr. Guszkowski explained “affordable housing” is loosely defined as that which is available to households making less than the area median income and costing less than 30% of a household’s annual income.
The executive summary of the plan, which is available for viewing on the town’s website, includes a list of nine steps the town may take to help in meeting the goal of increasing the amount of affordable housing.
Those steps are: 1. Increase the awareness of the availability of USDA/CHFA loans; 2. Facilitate an increase in the total number of accessory dwelling units; 3. Encourage the establishment of income-limited accessory dwelling units; 4. Develop Design Guidelines or standards for multi-family housing and accessory apartments; 5. Facilitate the creation of additional multi-family housing in Woodbury; 6. Facilitate the repurposing of existing structures to middle-density and multi-family housing; 7. Increase public awareness of Woodbury’s housing efforts; 8. Evaluate properties in town for potential public private affordable housing partnership; and 9. Other opportunities that may be identified in the future.
The town received nearly 600 responses to a survey earlier this year that sought input from residents on current and future needs. About 60% of the respondents thought the town should scatter affordable housing throughout the town. Of those preferring a more centralized approach, the town center was the most popular response.
Mr. Guszkowski said key action steps would likely include the naming of an affordable housing official who would be tasked with keeping the plan on track, the promotion of accessory dwelling units as a concept, promotion of the USDA and CHFA loan programs, the promotion of middle density housing and consideration to design standards for town center to encourage more affordable housing in that area.
Under public comment, Chairman Joel Serota spoke about preserving the rural character of the town and wondered what protections might be available to allow the town to maintain its culture into the future.