The town’s application for a temporary exemption from a state law that lets affordable housing developers overstep local zoning regulations is in question, now that a rent restriction has expired on a 25-unit apartment complex on Halpin Lane.
To earn a reprieve from the law, the town has to prove that a certain portion of its housing inventory is affordable, with units being assigned specific “point” values based on the restrictions in place, and now the complex may be worth less than the 50 points in the town’s draft moratorium application.
The state affordable housing law, 8-30g, has allowed several developers to win begrudging approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission for controversial applications in the village area that wouldn’t otherwise meet town guidelines on things like unit density and lot coverage.
The town has been working on obtaining a four-year moratorium that would allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to not consider any new applications submitted under 8-30g.
Only two other towns have successfully achieved a moratorium from the law.
To qualify for a moratorium the town has to show that it’s making progress increasing its inventory of affordable units. Municipalities with 10% of units deemed affordable are not subject to 8-30g applications that overstep zoning regulations, but Ridgefield is far from that mark.
Instead the town has to show that 2% of its total housing stock qualifies as affordable by state guidelines. Out of 9,420 units, according to the 2010 census, that translates to 189 “housing unit equivalency points.”
The application Town Planner Betty Brosius compiled originally totaled 194.21 points, so there is some slack if some of the units are disputed, but not 50 points worth of slack. There is some strategic thinking there. Any points counted in a successful application can’t be re-used for a later moratorium application, so it makes sense not to count too many extra units.
It’s unclear what the Halpin Lane complex will end up being counted as in terms of affordable points. It was built in the 1980s by a private company, using federal housing funds, and is located on the north side of Halpin Lane.
While one set of restrictions that kept rents below 8-30g levels expired, the complex is still subject to USDA rural development commitments, Ms. Brosius said.
“Though he does not rent at a higher level, this would allow him to go slightly above” the 8-30g levels, she said, referring to the landlord.
“We may be able to count the points to a certain level,” Ms. Brosius said. “We had originally thought that it was 25 units times two points per unit and it may be something less than that.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he is in talks with the landlord and lawyers are exploring options for counting the units.
“We’re discussing what we can do, whether the owner gives us a letter saying that he won’t raise the rent,” or something else, he said. For instance, he said, “since they are affordable just not under 8-30g, can we get a variance from the state?”