ROXBURY — The Board of Selectmen, at a special meeting on Thursday, July 22, approved a resolution that allows the board to accept grant funds to develop and adopt an affordable housing plan, as proposed by the state.
First Selectman Barbara Henry discussed creating a Town Housing Plan Steering Committee and a Housing Authority and having either the Planning Commission or the Zoning commission take the lead.
She said town officials have received a few calls from residents who have expressed interest in being part of the authority and possibly take part in the steering committee.
Ms. Henry explained Roxbury, along with each of the state’s towns, needs to submit an affordable housing plan to the state Office of Policy and Management by June 1, 2022, as mandated by the state. Funding for affordable housing plans must be used by October 31, 2022. Grants being offered of up to $15,000 to towns.
Ms. Henry noted town officials have a task list they need to follow to move forward with their own town’s affordable housing plan. Items include reviewing current existing plans and regulations, conducting a housing needs data assessment, developing and conducting a housing needs survey, interviews with existing affordable housing providers and more. Ms. Henry said all the state’s towns are taking part in the same process and Roxbury officials can look at what steps the others are taking.
“We need affordable rental units,” said Ms. Henry. “That’s what we want in our plans.”
Selectman Russell Dirienzo was not present at the meeting. At a meeting in June, he cited his concern that the proposed housing authority could impact the town’s zoning rights, which protects environmental factors. He said planning and zoning commissions have tried to push for affordable housing.
Selectman James Conway, during the same June meeting, noted towns can use zoning to to create housing, and owners can still set the rent or sale proce they want. A housing authority could possibll help with the listed issues.
According to the state Department of Housing, the grant opportunity “is intended to enable eligible municipalities to undertake a proactive planning process and lay out a strategy for meeting the housing needs to existing and future residents and workers.”
The purpose is to address Connecticut’s housing affordability crisis with a more “thoughtful approach” to planning for homes that meet the needs of individuals and families at different income levels and stages of life to sustain thriving local communities, according to the housing department’s website.
The Affordable Housing Plan and Process Guidebook cites the high cost of housing in Connecticut, noting housing costs are commonly accepted as the tradeoff for the amenities the state offers.
The guidebooks stress the process is to assist local leaders and residents to build a shared understanding of how homes should meet the needs of current and future residents, which can improve the overall health and economic vitality of their towns.
In other news, a Shepaug High School senior has proposed a dog park for Roxbury at Hurlburt Park. The project will be part of a Capstone requirement. There were a few questions on fundraising to provide material to build the barrier for the park, however it will be discussed at a later date.
Mr. Conway noted the plans will need to be taken to the Inland Wetlands Commission.