Selectmen agree to re-launch affordable housing committee

A little wary, like a divorced couple cooperating to benefit the kids, the selectmen and housing advocate Dave Goldenberg have agreed to work together again.

“I think we should all work together, I do,” said Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark at the end of a long discussion Dec. 13.

Goldenberg agreed to lead an effort to get the town’s Affordable Housing Committee — inactive for three years now — reorganized. The selectmen agreed to support that goal, and to back the committee as its seeks status as a commission rather than a committee. That change would happen through the charter revision process.

There was no vote at the selectmen’s meeting last week.

Goldenberg had approached the selectmen with a proposal to create what he wanted to call a “Housing Opportunity Commission” that would serve “housing diversity” goals. He felt status as a commission would give the group more autonomy than if it was a committee reporting to the Board of Selectmen.

“I’m coming to you, offering to rebuild this, but as a commission, separate from the Board of Selectmen,” he said.

Goldenberg’s written proposal quoted the Planning and Zoning Commission’s town plan, which asserts that a “shortage of housing for seniors, young adults, people with disabilities and those with moderate incomes may detract from community diversity and might significantly affect business.”

All seats vacant

The selectmen, however, preferred to have the effort pursued by a reconstituted Affordable Housing Committee.

The committee has existed in name only — all its seats vacant — since 2014, when Goldenberg, then its chairman, resigned, followed by the rest of the committee’s membership. None of the seats were refilled.

At the time, the committee was upset because the selectmen, in making plans to sell off portions of the Schlumberger property, didn’t set aside any land for future affordable housing.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi didn’t want to revisit all that, and agreed the housing diversity goals outlined by Goldenberg were worth pursuing.

“We need to look out the windshield and move forward,” Marconi said.