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Letter: What is the Real Purpose of OCA Proposal?

The Open Communities Alliance’s (OCA) has submitted a proposal to build a 4-family house on 2 Orchard Road and change zoning throughout Woodbridge to allow affordable, multi-family construction anywhere in town.  They further propose that this is an initial step and Woodbridge needs to plan for its “fair share” need of 1842 affordable units over a 20-year period.

How was this requirement determined?  After some searching, I found a lengthy study on the OCA website that determined affordable housing is required in each town throughout Connecticut, not only Woodbridge, totaling approximately 138,000 units.  This was stated to be a minimal need as it only addresses the states most economically challenged residents.  The state is divided into nine “planning regions” which are comprised of 6 to 38 towns.  Woodbridge is in the South Central Region comprised of 15 towns centered around New Haven.  OCA has determined the total affordable housing burden for the South Central Region is 26,000 units and that of Woodbridge is 1842.

How does this make sense?  Constructing 138,000 housing units throughout Connecticut in the next 20 years will increase the current housing stock by 9%.  There is no demand for this additional housing.  A study performed by UCONN projects the population of Connecticut to grow by a mere 50,000 people over the next 20 years.  That is a need for about 20,000 units.  What will happen with the 118,000 empty units once the residents relocate to these new apartments?  The 26,000 units required in the South Central Region is more than 50% of the current total housing in New Haven where these financially burdened people most likely reside.  This plan will move these people into the surrounding suburbs and leave half of the New Haven homes vacant!  New Haven and the other inner cities of Connecticut will become blighted!  The homes will become worthless.

Additionally, how do these affordable units address the stated problem?  The state’s definition of “affordable housing” is that which is affordable to those earning 60% or less of the State Median Income (SMI).  The number of required units in the OCA study is specifically for those people earning only 30% of the SMI or less.  They still couldn’t afford these new units without assistance, as I’m sure they are receiving now.

What is the real purpose of this proposal?  How does building more apartments change the current situation?  It appears the goal of this effort is not to alleviate anyone’s financial burden, but rather to diversify the suburbs at the expense of blighting the inner cities, stressing infrastructure, lowering property values and raising taxes for all involved.  The current proposal for 1842 units in Woodbridge is not justified.

If it is determined that the town is not compliant with the state statutes for affordable housing which is 10% of the total stock, then a careful plan should be formulated involving the residents and town officials to meet requirements with minimal impact on the town’s character and resources.

Lou Ruotolo

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