Southbury examines affordable housing, senior issues
SOUTHBURY — The town is developing a plan that addresses affordable housing, challenges facing senior citizens, the future of a facility for those with intellectual disabilities and more.
The Board of Selectmen are expected to discuss at its Thursday meeting the priorities laid out in this strategic plan, which a commission developed over a couple years.
The commission recommended the town solidify how to make Southbury more affordable, especially for seniors and young people, among other issues.
Only 1.4 percent of housing in Southbury is considered affordable, while the state requests 10 percent of towns’ housing stock be affordable, the commission found.
This is a problem for young people and older residents living in Heritage Village, said Ron Conti, a member of the Strategic Planning Commission.
“There are people in the village that are really struggling because they can’t afford to pay their maintenance fee and their taxes and all the rest,” he said at a meeting last week. “It would be great if they could go to affordable housing, but they can’t because there is none.”
For housing to be considered affordable, residents should pay no more than 30 percent of the average median income of the town, Conti said. But 56 percent of renters in Southbury pay more than 30 percent of their income, the commission found.
Encouraging affordable housing is part of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, too, said First Selectman Jeff Manville.
“The misconception is we're doing nothing,” he said. “That's not true.”
The town’s poverty rate is 8.4 percent — the highest of 11 neighboring and similar municipalities, the commission found.
A previous plan did not consider how one-third of Southbury’s population by next year, he said.
Jones suggested the town push for public transportation that would help seniors and heighten its outreach to the elderly. He described a “moat” around Heritage Village, a community for adults 55 and older with 2,580 condos.
“The sooner and the more we can integrate Heritage Village into the life of Southbury, the better it will be for everybody, including the town,” Jones said at last week’s meeting.
The commission urged the town to figure out what to do with the Southbury Training School property once the state closes the facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The town and state must work together to develop a plan, the commission said.
Another priority should be building a community center, a project just over half of residents surveyed in 2018 said they would support, the commission said.
The commission asked the town to research these ideas, but it would be up to the selectmen to decide whether the town should spend money to address them.
“We have no spending authority,” John Monteleone, commission chairman, said at the meeting. “We’re recommending little or no money be spent.”
The selectmen could consider creating other committees to focus on how to implement the ideas or tackle the concerns, Manville said.
“We’re going to incorporate what's in there and roll it forward,” he said. “Will we get to everything in the next six months or a year? I don't think anyone could realistically expect that because it’s a very broad number of things.”