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5 takeaways from the Norwalk Affordable Housing Plan Committee meeting

The Affordable Housing Plan Advisory Committee on Monday, June 24.

One-third of Norwalk households are paying more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, the Affordable Housing Plan Advisory Committee learned Monday, when it met to discuss key findings from a consultant’s state-mandated report on the city’s housing needs.

Kevin Dwarka, a land use and economic consultant who is working with Allee King Rosen & Fleming on an affordable housing plan, also said homeownership rates have fallen from 65 percent to 55 percent over the last 10 years. “It has become hard to become a homeowner,” he said.

AKRF is in phase 4 of the plan, which was launched in November of last year at an in-person meeting. The plan must be completed by this fall to comply with Connecticut’s General Statute 8-30j

“The assessment reflects a combination of information gathered over the last six months, including demographic and housing data, interviews with stakeholders… as well as some findings from the survey,” said Dwarka. 

Here’s a look at the 5 takeaways from the report:

  1. The financial burden for Norwalk’s community is high for renters and homeowners of all income levels. 

“More than a third of households are cost-burdened as measured by paying more than 30% of their income toward housing,” Dwarka said.

In addition, if households are earning less than the state median income of $75,000, 85% of them would be even more cost-burdened. Dwarka explained that the data shows what a pervasive issue affordability is, with households of various income levels facing challenges in meeting their costs.  

  1. Many renters make below 83% of the state median income (SMI), while housing is priced for households that make more than 83% of the SMI.

The majority of rentals being built in Norwalk aren’t financially accessible to people living below the SMI, which raises questions about who the “preferred” renters are in the new apartment developments.

“To change that gap, there’s going to be a change in production of rental housing so that it can dive deeper into levels of affordability.” Dwarka went on to explain that other intersections of costs – like transportation and health care – also play a role in housing cost burdens. 

  1. Homeownership rates have fallen from 65% to 55% over the last 10 years. 

There’s a focus on working on the policy framework of homeownership to offset displacement and overcome barriers that make it hard to access housing. The plan aims to overcome barriers to housing by removing obstacles along homeownership pathways, including condominiums and limited equity co-ops. 

  1. There’s a strong intersection of housing and economic development.  

According to aggregate data from 2011 to 2021, the number of jobs in Norwalk has slowly fallen from 44,000 to 38,000. “Of the workers who have jobs in Norwalk, 75% of them don’t live in Norwalk,” Dwarka said. 

When economic development shrinks and commercial properties downsize, the city’s burden to raise operating costs through property tax revenue can increase. “Which raises taxes, makes housing less affordable, which in turn moves people out of the city… it makes it harder to sustain economic development,” Dwarka said. 

  1. Residents and stakeholders expressed approval of the mass transit interlinking of new housing developments.

There have been concerns that new housing may exacerbate traffic congestion. So, to cope with the number of newcomers, improved transit options are essential to accommodate the increased population. 

What’s next for the affordable housing plan?

  1. Define values, goals, and objectives
  2. Establish action and implementation plan
  3. Assess the impacts and benefits of proposed actions
  4. Finalize affordable housing action plan 
  5. Prepare a guidebook to affordable house plans in Norwalk. 

 The committee plans to meet once a month until adoption to update residents. 

Comments

5 responses to “5 takeaways from the Norwalk Affordable Housing Plan Committee meeting”

  1. Jason Milligan

    Too often government focuses efforts on the wrong thing.

    Markets work through pricing. Price is everything. If supply is low and demand is high, then prices will rise. Along with that profit will also likely rise.

    If the market is open then capital will race towards profit. Often too much capital races toward the profit and supply swings too far, which drives down price and profit. Eventually an equilibrium is reached.

    In Norwalk CT the market is not OPEN. There are way too many rules. Both State & City rules. Approvals take too long and come with too much baggage. Every project is required to adhere to the same very expensive standards. The time and cost involved getting approvals creates a huge hurdle for capital trying to race towards the profit, and it severely curtails the profit. Ultimately it limits the competition and it limits the supply.

    On one side the government drives the cost to get approvals and to build and on the other side the government puts price controls limiting the rent that can be charged for a large number of apartments. The result is a lack competition. Only a select group of developers are willing and able to compete in this controlled market. The best way to make money, or perhaps the only way is through subsidy and tax incentives.

    The best answer is to open the market in every way that you can. Let the greedy developers fight and compete for your business by providing competitive prices.

    If the consensus is Norwalk needs lower prices than the obvious solution is to increase supply. If we create an environment where it is easy and quick to build than prices would come down in no time!

  2. John O’Neill

    Norwalk is shoveling out hundreds of millions of dollars for school construction. How many of those dollars/jobs are going to Norwalkers?
    I’d bet my life we’d be shocked by the lack of Norwalkers on those sites !! Where are the leaders from our minority communities on that?
    When you include the Bridge project the dollars are billions not millions. Where are the Norwalkers on these jobs?
    Maybe if our Board of Ed did their job we’d have a school system that would attract higher income levels and the ratios above would be better.

    1) I agree with Jason Milligan — The bureaucracy we’ve developed should be modified.
    2) Our many officials should be ashamed of themselves for lack of job-holders at these projects.

  3. Bryan Meek

    “According to aggregate data from 2011 to 2021, the number of jobs in Norwalk has slowly fallen from 44,000 to 38,000.“

    What?!!!!

    If that isn’t a clarion call to eliminate the wasteful layers of government I don’t know what is.

    Free-er markets got that number to 44k and this administration has squandered $10s of millions in an obvious failed effort here.. I’m sure the answer will be another commission, department, studies, headcount with above market pay and benefits, and of course “grants” (which come from the tooth fairy).

  4. Bryan Meek

    “According to aggregate data from 2011 to 2021, the number of jobs in Norwalk has slowly fallen from 44,000 to 38,000.“

    6000 fewer jobs in town and 10000 more people living here. No wonder why traffic is a disaster.

  5. David Muccigrosso

    All this “free market” talk is RICH coming from the people who absolutely lost their $h!t over a handful of duplex/ADU zones in the recent zoning update and broadly opposed that update to begin with.

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