Affordable Housing
It’s back in the news again. Greewnich, under state law, must provide a certain number of affordable housing units for its population. Not surprisingly, in a town where a single building lot can easily cost $1,000,000, we’re not in compliance. The latest plan to add a couple of hundred units (elderly and moderate income) in Byram has met fierce resistance from that neighborhood and, I suppose that if those same units were proposed for Riverside, I’d howl too. But where else can we build? Someone suggested highrise apartments in the back country which, while amusing to contemplate (perhaps just off Round Hill Club’s 18th hole?) isn’t going to fly. I’d suggest that we forget the whole thing but again, there’s a state law in the way, which can basically override our zoning regulations and force construction anywhere a developer likes (again, wouldn’t it be fun to see moderate income folks belly up to the bar at the Round Hill Club?) McKinney Terrace and Quarry Knoll, properties already owned by the town, have the space, if not the local good will, to accommodate a large number of additional units – I can’t think of another area that does, withe possible exception of the idea being floated for building a high rise on stilts above the Island beach parking lot. Heck, they’d do that in New York, but I suspect that the cost would be way beyond our means. Intriguing idea, though.

But why is our housing so expensive?
There’s not enough land, obviously, but we can also look to our restrictive zoning regulations. I recently read that an economics professor in Seattle examined the rise in average Seattle area house prices from $230,000 to $460,000 and concluded that $200,000 of that rise was directly attributable to the strict zoning rules imposed by the city – lot size, house size, etc. The professor happened to be a proponant of those regulations and wasn’t advocating their repeal; he was just monetarizing their cost. Life is full of choices. I, for one, would prefer that Greenwich not become the next Riverdale, but I wonder how long we can insist on minimum lot sizes and low height restrictions before we run afoul of our friends in Hartford. Vote Republican, is my advice.

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  1. Anonymous

    Welcome back, Chris. There are lots of ways to create “more-affordable housing”: Allow single family homeowners to convert space to a below market rental, which would spread density among other sections of town; allow the Town of Greenwich to provide below market loans to its workforce to buy homes within a certain radius of Greenwich. Let’s not forget that most of us with unsubsidized housing have long commutes. The town could provide incentives to purchase in foreclosure hotspots which would be a “win/win”. These properties could satisfy the affordable housing requirements if we (and the State) think outside of the Greenwich box. This would also help maintain neighborhoods .

  2. Anonymous

    The affordable housing set aside on a town by town basis is terrible law that should be repealed. Let local people decide how local land is used through their local governments…tis far more just than a heavy hand from out of town.