Shelton P&Z: CT official updates affordable housing rules

The Planning & Zoning Commission held a special meeting last week to learn more about the state’s affordable housing law, often referred to as “8-30g” from the pertinent state statute.

Michael Santoro from the state Department of Housing (DOH) gave a presentation and answered questions about affordable housing and relevant state laws at the April 4 meeting.

His talk covered what is and isn’t considered affordable housing, what state laws oversee affordable housing zoning applications and other issues, and what local zoning commissions “can,” “should” and “have to” do about affordable housing. He went into the mechanics of 8-30g.

Santoro’s presented statistical data, including on income limits for tenants to live in what is considered affordable housing.

P&Z Chairman Virginia Harger called it “a good review” that highlighted information “we’ll be able to use during an affordable housing application.”

Member Jimmy Tickey said it was “very informative to hear formally what affordable housing means and doesn’t mean.” Tickey, in his new role as an aide to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, assisted interim P&Z Administrator Ken Nappi in contacting the DOH to arrange the presentation.

Both Harger and Tickey said it was helpful to learn what other communities in Connecticut are doing on affordable housing.

According to the state, 2.9 percent of housing in Shelton is considered to be affordable. That puts the city under a state threshold, making it easier for a developer to get a local affordable housing proposal approved under 8-30g if a certain amount of the overall units are set aside as affordable.

Harger said an applicant has to provide a lot of documentation to supplement an 8-30g application. “It’s an undertaking,” she said. “And it doesn’t end once a development is built and occupied because the eligibility of occupants must be confirmed annually.”

As part of an application, a developer must present a long-term affordability plan that sets guidelines on how residential units can be rented or sold. This includes income limits of potential occupants, whether they are renters or purchasers.

According to information on the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region distributed at the meeting, “extremely low income” ranges from $20,350 for one person to $29,050 for a four-person household, and “low income” ranges from $50,350 for a single individual to $71,900 for a four-person household.

Fair market rents for apartments in Shelton are considered to be $846 monthly for a studio unit, $1,010 for one bedroom, $1,272 for two bedrooms and $1,595 for three bedrooms.

Tickey said he didn’t realize an applicant or even the P&Z can set certain preferences for affordable housing units, making them available to teachers, first responders and other specific groups as allowed by state law.

P&Z members now have a better understanding of 8-30g, Tickey said.

“Whenever you start to look at affordable housing projects that are beginning to be prepared, it’s a good idea to hear from the experts about how this all works and to ensure there are safeguards around it to get good, quality housing,” he said.