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Last week, we covered a story about a local Community Service Officer and homophobic comments posted online. The result was a heated series of comments, and many emails to this site, either taking a side on the matter or asking questions.

In looking at the full context of the comments by the CSO, they were made in anger over the Parkside issue, and the officer in question even posted a screen shot of a recent New Haven Register article regarding Milford and how it has handled affordable housing. The implication was that Milford was actively fighting it while Branford did nothing.

Thus, one of the questions we received asks why Milford is so active and Branford is not.

While the wording of the question is misleading, as Branford has taken many steps to combat the plan as much is admissible by law, it seems clear that many do not understand the full impact of the law, and a major change to the law that took place in 2017 that gives Milford some major advantages due to its size and how mobile home parks are counted.

First, the affordable housing law, is its simplest form, only allows a local denial of an application to be on grounds of health and safety, and then demands that the town’s denying an application prove it in court. This is different from any other application, where we can analyze the look, design aspects, traffic, neighborhood impact, and many other areas in approving, or denying, a project.

If it looks like this is an attempt to handcuff a local community, it should. That's what it is designed to do.

The complaint was that local communities were using any excuse possible to stop low income or affordable housing. And in some case, this was true. So the law changed that.

This law applies to any town with less that 10% of its housing deemed “affordable.” To be deemed “affordable,” there are income limits on the residents, and it is "deed restricted," meaning that it must be allocated to residents under a certain income for a period of time, often 40 years or more.

What this means is that even if a town has units that match the income requirements, if it is not deed restricted, it is not counted as part of the 10 percent.

So what happened in Milford?

What took place in Milford has nothing to do with any actual affordable housing application or project.

What Milford did was apply for, and receive, a moratorium on the affordable housing law. For the next 4 years, an applicant cannot use the affordable housing law in Milford.

Why was Milford able to do this? A few reasons. First, it had a recent uptick in affordable housing units. Essentially, when granted the moratorium, it looks at projects that had received a certificate of occupancy. But allowing some affordable housing, it was now more likely to receive a moratorium.

Branford does not have any recent projects that would show a significant increase in deed-restricted affordable housing units. Thus, Branford would have no chance at receiving the moratorium.

In 2017, some changes were made to the moratorium requirements, but have minimal impact on Branford. The major change is how the law applies to towns with less that 2500 housing units in total, which would not apply to Branford (Branford has about 14,000 total housing units).

Put simply, Branford is handling a specific project and Milford received an overall moratorium. They are not the same thing. Branford is nowhere close to receiving any sort of moratorium.

This site has detailed multiple times how the affordable housings laws are unfair to a town like Branford. And the changes in 2017 only added to that, and gave another huge advantage to Milford.

The 2017 changes allowed towns to consider, for the first time, mobile home parks in their affordable home calculations. On the surface, this would be a help to Branford, which has a large number of such parks.

But the law details that it must be a “resident-owned mobile home park” to be counted. There are no “resident owned” parks in Branford. In fact, according to attorney Tim Hollister, who is representing the developer in the Parkside application, the only such park that would meet the criteria in the state is in one town: Milford.

So Milford had huge advantages in how it calculates affordable housing that helped it receive its moratorium, something Branford does not have.

The Branford Planning and Zoning Commission has done what it can to address the concerns of residents, but as the law is intended to do, its' hands are largely tied. Stipulations have been added that the applicant must do, and that has resulted in legal action, something that is taking place right now. And residents would do well to watch the funding; the tax credits needed for the project have not yet been approved, and regular updates from the local state representatives could be valuable in this regard.

The affordable housing laws are confusing. And confusion, over time, often leads to anger, and that anger tends to seek out anger.  We have seen this repeatedly on the Parkside matter, and from both sides to varying degrees. When we add in those that are looking to use the anger of others to promote their own agenda along with the impact of social media and conspiracy theories, we can see some of the offensive and ill-informed posts that come with not understanding an issue.

(7) comments

GMC093

I am confused on the homophobic twist you placed on this story. Isn' t the real story about the zoning board and town attny not being honest with the people effected with the project and the possible corruption within the board. Mr. Kenney seems to be a side piece to cause a political correctness firestorm among the PC police and deflect the real issues with the members of the zoning board. The term gay is not offensive when used to describe the actions of one or more board members. By defintion it means "light hearted and carefree", just like members of the commission viewed the concerns of the people they were choosen to serve. To say Mr. Kenney is somehow homophobic is absurd. Please be a resonsible journalist and do some fact checking before you slander a person to create a side story for your benefit. Maybe then you will earn some respect.


Steve Mazzacane Staff
Steve Mazzacane

First, no one stated anyone was homophobic, it stated the comments were. The term "gay" was used in a negative sense, thats homophobic. Know the difference. Second, it is clear you are confused, as you admit, as there is no evidence to suggest anything you state is true. When was the town attorney dishonest with residents? You have documentation to prove this? And we don't need your help garnering respect. Our decade of covering the town has done that for us. If you have no desire to learn the facts and post logically, please find another site to spew your nonsense.

Guest

Thank you for this article that explains the differences between Branford and Milford affordable housing. This is a complex issue and we as a town need to get it right. Facts are important. Standing up against Homophobia is important so Thank you.

Guest

It seems like most of the anger about the proposed re-development is focused on just a few issues:



1. what happens to the current residents? it sounds like many of them will just be displaced, with no recourse.

2. what kind of controls will be in place to ensure the people who are allowed to live in the new development generally will be law-abiding citizens? current residents clearly are. if they are displaced and new people are brought in, who vets their backgrounds to make sure no one who is on the child sex offender list is allowed to live there? it is just a blocks from an elementary school.

3. the perception is that the developer just wants to make a quick buck and then disappear once the project is done. where is the accountability if things go wrong?

4. the people pushing the project don't live anywhere near affordable housing themselves. what gives them the right to force onto others things they resist doing in their own lives?

5. am I missing anything else?

Guest

As a new CT resident, I am not familiar with the projects to which the writer refers. I worked as a project manager in city and regional nonprofit agencies in L.A. and the San Francisco Bay area for eight years, followed by three years as a funding application reviewer. My experience was that if the developer was a well-established nonprofit agency or a for-profit with a substantial proportion of its portfolio in affordable housing, there are ways its background and experience can be examined. An important basic step is reviewing the project’s funding sources - HUD, state housing finance agencies, corporate funded tax credit projects, and affordable housing grants from sources such as the Federal Loan Banks, overseen by the Federal Reserve. These projects must comply with rules and regulations during the development process before funds can be released incrementally based upon the level of completion. Following completion, many of these projects are managed by an affiliate of the development company and are monitored regularly by funding sources to determine their continuing compliance. The majority of funding sources monitor their projects at least annually.

During the tenant selection process, residents must meet income qualification and are vetted for criminal records, including sex offender lists which the writer questioned. Most tenants are in respected professions – for example, teaching, health, and retail. Following selection, a reputable management company closely monitors its tenants for problem behaviors, delinquent rent payments, and other infractions. The management company’s history can be checked easily with police, and other city government departments for its record.

For specifics the guest mentioned, I do not know. However, while each state’s rules may differ to some extent, hopefully can serve as a helpful initial look on how to evaluate affordable housing project developers and management companies.

- Christine Benguiat

JGordon

Even with a Moratorium, a Developer could choose to make an application that comports with the 8-30g Statute. The Town/City could approve such a plan. The Moratorium prevents the applicant from filing suit under the terms of the Statute. They could appeal under conventional land use law. That is a heavy burden to prevail. However, what is almost always lost on the public is the purpose of the Moratorium for non-exempt (under 10%) communities. They are supposed to use the four year window to assess and develop planning tools to increase its affordable inventory. The timeframe gives them local control, more of a "Time Out" not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Guest

We would probably lose part of Sliney field,wise to do a land survey.Wise to find out where there water comes from,not good.

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