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.