Thursday, May 30, 2024

OOPs: Meeting Mix-up


The May 21st Stratford Crier misidentified two Stratford Town Council meetings.

The Stratford Housing Strategies Special Meeting on May 10th was assigned the incorrect minutes (Special Ordinance meeting notes).

Both articles are now corrected.

Thank you for your patience.
Your Frazzled Stratford Crier Editor!

The public hearing to discuss the results of the 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee which also included results of the Housing Partnership town wide survey conducted over several months.

Two speakers weighed in on the results of the report to the Stratford Town Council:

The first speaker, Kathleen Callahan remarks were:
My reason for calling in tonight is to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Stratford Housing Partnership for their rigorous work on the recently endorsed Housing Plan. Your efforts demand recognition. While reading the report, I was impressed by the depth of the survey, analysis, and recommended strategies. In days of deep partisan divide, this was a much-needed respite.

To the Council, mayor, and her administration, I ask you to accept the plan as endorsed and begin the hard work required by its recommended actions. As Councilwoman Shake wrote in a piece published today, there is no timeline defined for implementing solutions. I support her call – “for the sake of our seniors, our entry-level workers, and our insecure homeowners” – to act and act now.

Housing is always on the agenda of local governments but over the recent years it has become a controversial, partisan issue across the country and the state with the general assembly currently debating zoning legislation. I remain hopeful that my town of Stratford can see this as the Partnership did and begin to define implementation steps based on the needs of all residents.

I have found that when people are honest with themselves, we recognize that our sources of information for addressing a problem are usually ones that validate our initial opinions. Does inclusionary zoning improve the goal of affordable housing? I could search Google right now and find studies and data with outcomes that fit whatever I already believe, whatever any of you already believe.

I worked at our local homeless shelter for a brief time 6-7 years ago, while also working at a residential treatment center. My focus was on addiction services and what a surprise it was to learn of the Housing First model! Since Sobriety First was my view, this was a full-on paradigm shift for me… one that seems so obvious today. Housing is one of the most researched social determinants of health: there are improved personal and community health and economic outcomes related to better housing options and access.

I cannot imagine there is anything but agreement here that every Stratford resident deserves the dignity of a place to call home.

The second speaker was Barbara Heimlich, who spoke to the document’s findings:
If you are going to consider zoning changes it should be across all of the residential zones, just not in selected residential zones, e.g. any changes should apply equally to all those districts.

“You can still retain the character of the zone, even though every one of the 12 local districts build homes that did not meet our current zoning regulations on size.

We can’t build thousands of units to meet the states affordable housing goals without tear-downs, the town of Stratford does not own/have the land to do it. The state is calling for 4,000 units, that would call for something dramatic, again, we have no land.

Why isn’t the state not realizing we probably have more affordable housing per person than any town in Fairfield County.

The reason we are so affordable is because we went from being a small quaint New England community to being a “mill town” in the late 40s and 50s. Our housing was designed for working class families – capes with less than 1,700sq to meet the GI bill housing requirements, which is what most of our capes in Stratford are.

The state wants 10% of our housing to be affordable, right now we are 6.4%, if we get it up to 10% we would have a moratorium on our town meeting the standard which would not be dictated by a developer or state, we need 420 units to meet present state mandates.

We are not wealthy enough for public-private partnerships to be developed, The median income in Stratford is lower than other communities in Fairfield county and there is a need for housing options that are less expensive/more affordable.

About ½ to 2/3 of the housing survey participants indicated they were housing cost burdened (spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs), and ½ to 2/3s were concerned about their long-term ability to be able to afford to stay in Stratford.

Why are you having this special meeting, what is the time frame for us to make a decision? Where are the members of the Housing Partnership to explain the document they created and to provide information to residents and Town Council members interested in learning more about our obligations to the State of CT?

Editor’s Note: Stratford Housing Partnership consists of appointments made by Mayor Laura Hoydick. The members are:
Representative of the Zoning Commission Christopher Silhavey
Representative of Planning Commission Harold Watson
Representative of Inland Wetlands & Waterfront Commission Christopher Blake
Representative of Stratford Housing Authority Elizabeth Sulik
Representative of Economic and Community Development Commission Jennifer Sheldon
Member of the Local Business Community Desmond Ndzi
Member of a Public Interest Group Beth Daponte
Stratford Urban Planning Professional Susmitha Attota

The public hearing was then adjourned with the May 10th Town Council beginning at 8 p.m.
Note: The 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee can be found on the Town of Stratford website.


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