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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Incentive Housing Zone – Sunday editorial in the Record Journal

This editorial was in the Sunday January 20, 2013 edition of the Record Journal; I couldn’t agree more with the topic and the content and while I was going to write my own letter to the editor about it I am no longer going to as I cannot improve on it.

As published in the Record Journal Sunday January 20, 2013

Establishment of an Incentive Housing Zone around lower downtown Wallingford could help revitalize an area potentially facing stagnation.

As proposed, an Incentive Housing Zone would allow developers to build high-density, mixed-use structures three-to-four stories tall. In reasonable exchange for town officials upping Wallingford’s normal density parameters in this district, builders must design and designate 20 percent of home units as affordable. These less-expensive dwellings will be for people earning 80 percent or less of the median area income.

Despite cheaper prices, “affordable housing” should not be confused with low-income or government subsidized units. This incentive zone is intended to provide more cost- effective options for (among others) young residents or older people on fixed incomes, and any professionals in between those ages. Connecticut is an expensive place to live in and thus is losing recent graduates and retirees to other states. Our workforce and economy weaken as result.

“There’s a lot of young people who grew up in Wallingford who can’t afford to move back,” perceptively stated Democratic Town Councilor John Sullivan (R-J, 1-12). Many individuals naturally want to start an adult life in their hometown once they grow up. But cost-of-living expenses in Connecticut can price this goal out of the budgets of first-time renters and owners. An Incentive Housing Zone would address this problem.

Moreover, this zoning modification could commercially boost lower downtown Wallingford. Unlike upper sections of town center, some may view this sector as more affected in recent years by various forms of blight and business turnover. A sizeable increase in clientele would provide more routine customers for shops and restaurants.

Municipal benefits would be widespread. New residents in this incentive zone would mean more foot traffic for businesses throughout Wallingford. And perhaps with successful implementation of affordable housing downtown, developers of similarly conceptualized units at Simpson Village will finally launch that inert project.

Only about six percent of Wallingford housing stock is considered affordable. Connecticut has set a goal for all towns to maintain that figure at 10 percent — for good reason. Affordable housing would attract more retirees and young professionals, people with tighter budgets who might otherwise relocate to a state where cost-of-living is less daunting.

Wallingford leaders and residents should support the proposed incentive zone, and grant lower downtown the uptick in local consumers required for economic revitalization. The town has abundant character and nuance upon which to ever-improve its draw as a destination of choice in which to live and work.

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