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Letter: Good Solutions Come Only After Facts are Laid Bare

Because I believe Woodbridge is a wonderful town – and because I admire greatly the residents and officials who have worked hard in the last two years to widen its array of housing options – I am writing to clarify a recent full-page ad in your newspaper that misstated a point I made at a public forum.

The ad, titled “Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Affordable Housing in Woodbridge,” is obviously authored by people who care deeply about the town.  But several of their statements need modification.

Specifically, the authors:

  • Seem to have implied that I would oppose density and creation of income-restricted homes on the Country Club of Woodbridge property because I believe the best location for affordable housing is near shopping, services and transit. There are, to be sure, some locations that are better than others.  But because Woodbridge has so little income-restricted housing, I think building affordable homes on the Country Club property would be better than not.  An apt analogy:  if someone is starving, any additional nourishment is vital.
  • Asserted that Woodbridge is not “an outlier in having relatively little legally affordable housing.” According to the state Department of Housing, only 1.18% of Woodbridge’s housing stock is income-restricted so workers, young families, the elderly and others who need it could potentially afford to live there.  Of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities, just 10 have a lower percentage.
  • Suggested homes valued at up to $250,000 are “naturally” affordable. A home priced at $250,000 is unfortunately not affordable for many.  Based on currently rising interest rates, that $250,000 home would require a monthly mortgage payment of more $1,500 so a buyer would have to earn at least $60,000 a year to afford it (i.e., not spend more than 30% of his or her income).  According to the state Department of Labor, scores of needed Connecticut occupations pay less.  Just a few:  credit counselors, architectural drafters, archeologists, occupational safety and health technicians, survey researchers, clergy, religious education directors, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, pre-school teachers.  The authors say 2021 town data indicates 300-plus homes were valued at $250,000 or less.  That total is less than 10% of Woodbridge’s housing stock and, given the sizeable run-up in home costs in the last year, likely to be lower now.

As I said above, I am certain the ad’s authors believe they have Woodbridge’s best interests in mind.  And I commend them for their advocacy.  Housing is a vital need and all residents should be encouraged to take part in discussing the town’s housing needs.  To that end, the South Central Region Council of Governments – of which Woodbridge is a member and I am a consultant – is shaping a 4th year of housing efforts to facilitate communication, education and discussion about housing needs.  Every resident’s ideas and perspective are relevant and worthy of considering.  It’s important for all residents to not only listen to each other, but hear what they are saying.  Adding new housing options in a town can be – and has been – done successfully.  Good solutions can result, but only after the facts are laid bare, the opinions heard, the perspectives understood, and a common vision agreed upon.  I believe the thoughtful, open-minded residents of Woodbridge will, like those in others towns, succeed in that effort.

David Fink, West Hartford, CT

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