SOUTHBURY — John Monteleone, chairman of the Strategic Plan Commission, has a firm rule that no meeting should run on for more than 90 minutes, and so the Thursday, September 12, meeting duly wrapped at 8:30 p.m. precisely with every item ticked off on a busy agenda.
Old business was quickly taken care of by filling two vacancies. Ed Dalterio, an alternate member, was raised to a regular member vacancy and Donna Lesch became the new alternate member. There was talk about the Strategic Plan priorities, unanimously approved by the Board of Selectmen at its August 15 meeting.
A team of five members had volunteered to develop White Papers designed to raise the level of public undertanding of such issues as Affordable Housing, state-mandated by Public Act 17-170, passed in 2017, which requires every town to read and adopt the act.
Also targeted for attention are future uses of the Southbury Training School, revisiting the Pomperaug Regional Community Center Project, which dates back to the Edelson administration, and conversation back to the same historical moment about whether to combine Planning and Zoning into a single commission and the same deal for the Conservation and Wetlands Commissions, both of which are expected to provoke opposition.
And finally, revisiting the needs of the senior population which, coincidentally, had been raised at the September 5 selectmen’s meeting by Senior Services Director Tamath Rossi.
Subsequently, since each of these five subjects was a total mystery to most people in town, the commission voted to produce a series of accompanying White Paper commentaries.
The first one was devoted to Affordable Housing, written by volunteers Kathryn Smith and Ron Conti, and presented at last Thursday’s meeting by Ms. Smith.
Public Act 17-170, passed in 2017, mandates that every town prepare and adopt an “affordable housing plan.” The plan must specify how the town intends to increase the number of affordable housing units.
Now here’s interesting news: Affordable housing is not low-income housing. It is housing that is affordable for an individual who has an income lower than the median income in the region. Housing is considered a financial burden if the family has an income lower than that median.
The town has close to 20,000 residents with an average annual income of $182,000 for a family of four. The average home value for Southbury in 2016 was $330,600.
According to this research, real estate prices in Southbury are some of the most expensive in the state and are significantly higher than the national average.
Due to the high real estate prices and lack of an inventory of lower price units, it is difficult for young families to make Southbury home.
Grace Meadows, one of the few affordable housing opportunities in town, has an estimated six-year wait. Adding affordable housing to the community would benefit local business and the local economy, the White Paper suggested.
Ms. Smith noted that the Affordable Housing Team collected information from other communities and is doing additional research that will be presented to the Board of Selectmen for review and consideration in due course.