Housing Affordability - Stonington Community Conversation

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The Stonington Department of Planning and the Economic Development Commission will host the second in a series of community conversations on the subject of housing affordability.

On June 17th, from 6:00-7:30 at the Velvet Mill located on Bayview Avenue, residents will get to offer their input on the final draft of Stonington’s Affordability Plan, which will guide actions to achieve affordable housing goals in the community. 

"We invite all members of the community to join us for an informative meeting, and we welcome everyone's input to make the Town of Stonington a community where everyone can live affordably, and enjoy all of the historic character, top-rated schools and seaside atmosphere" said Susan Cullen, Director of Economic and Community Development.

It is widely recognized that the United States is facing an affordable housing challenge that impacts many aspects of daily life.  In Stonington, 41% of renters and 29% of homeowners are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Stonington’s Affordability Plan will aim to take steps to make housing more affordable. Reducing the cost burden related to housing costs can have additional benefits by allowing more income to be spent in the local economy supporting businesses and organizations.

This is a challenge that needs an array of creative tools to solve, which the new Affordability Plan will outline. In order to create the best possible Plan for Stonington, input is needed from a diverse range of perspectives from members of the community.

A common theme in the plan is to remove regulatory impediments and create regulatory incentives. This is excellent timing for the Town, as the 2021-22 budget provides funding to update Stonington’s Zoning Regulations. During this June meeting, it will be helpful to get input from residents on the type of zoning updates they agree with, ones they see challenge with, and possible new ideas not yet brought forward.

The plan also shares findings related to common concerns raised, such as increasing school enrollments, which could overburden local budgets. The reality is that school district enrollments have been declining statewide for over a decade, including Stonington’s enrollments, which declined by 25%. Only 17.4% of total households in Stonington have children under age 18.  These changes in household structure result from both an aging population and social-cultural trends, which helps explain why Stonington’s school district enrollments have declined substantially.

In February, that process began with about 40 community members joining a virtual discussion on the current state of housing and future possibilities in Stonington.  An initial presentation on the what, why and how of affordable housing was followed by probing and insightful questions and comments from engaged participants. You can find the recording of the presentation at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS_GUYhA-WQ&t=192s.

“During the conversation it was noted that a diverse range of housing options can help attract new, younger residents, provide an opportunity for retirees to remain in the community, and ensure those who work in our community also have the option to live there” shared Danielle Chesebrough, First Selectman.  A common objective came through, which is that our community should strive to offer an opportunity to persons of all income levels to enjoy and benefit from what the community has to offer.

Thanks to a State grant the Town was able to secure a housing expert, Don Poland of Gorman + York, to research and write the Plan. Dr. Poland drafted the final Plan, attached below, incorporating ideas and feedback from residents. This is the final opportunity for residents to offer their insights before the final plan is submitted, and we hope you will join us on June 17th. Snacks and refreshments will be provided, and any resident in need of transportation can contact the First Selectman’s office.