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With five developers offering proposals for an affordable housing on town property, town officials have interviewed the companies and anticipate recommending a candidate to take the project forward in the coming weeks.
Guilford began its latest effort to develop more affordable housing in town a few years ago after a survey showed a lack of affordable housing for all ages was a big concern among residents. The local Housing for Economic Development Planning Committee (HEDPC) began to look at possible solutions.
HEDPC Chair and Selectman Sandy Ruoff said there is one more step before the committee can bring a recommendation to the full Board of Selectmen (BOS) for consideration and approval.
HEDPC “has been actively reviewing the five applications for the potential affordable housing development and in order to comply with the RFP correctly, we will have one more meeting before we are ready to present the recommendation to this board,” she said.
Five developers—Neighborworks/New Horizons from New Haven, Women’s Institute from Middletown, Home, Inc., from New Haven, New Reach, Inc., from New Haven, and The Glendower Group, Inc., from New Haven—responded to the Request for Proposals (RFP). Ruoff said the committee should be ready to make a recommendation in May.
The definition of “affordable” can vary. For Guilford, where the median household income hovers in the $98,000 to $99,000 range, a home is considered affordable if a household can pay up to 30 percent of its monthly income for monthly housing costs; according to state guidelines, that Guilford household would have an annual income of approximately $76,000 and could afford $1,980 monthly.
Two grants from the state allowed the committee to identify several properties in Guilford that could be used for affordable development and then conduct a feasibility study. Of the eight sites identified, the committee moved forward with a parcel known as the Woodruff or Drive Way property located near the train station across from the Town Garage. The town owns the property.
To conduct the feasibility study, the town hired Patriquin Architects to take a closer look at the Woodruff/Driveway property including looking at the physical capability of the project on the site for things like sewage disposal, the potential number of units on the property, permitting needs, preliminary designs, and discussing the project with neighbors and the wider community.
The finding was that the property is feasible for this kind of development and the RFP went out earlier this year. The RFP included details like the land price as well as any other conditions that would govern the final development proposal. Since the property is town-owned land, the town has the power to decide whether the land is sold or leased to keep the project affordable.
First Selectman Matt Hoey said the developers who responded to the RFP include for-profit and not-for-profit entities.
“I took the opportunity to sit in on four of the five interviews and was greatly impressed with the capabilities of some of these organizations,” he said. “Based on the questions and interactions I saw from the committee, I have complete confidence in their ability to assess the prioritized ranking of the respondents. There were some interesting conversations that took place in terms of how to approach this project and some of them were pretty honest about the challenges, because this is not going to be completely easy.”
The property is about nine acres and bordered by Old Whitfield Street, Driveway, and Stone House Lane. The property currently houses the nonprofit Guilford Center for Children; the Guilford Food Bank, which is managed by volunteers; and a small park on the land, none of which would be affected by the potential development.
The middle of the property can handle the septic requirements. Town Planner George Kral previously said the consultant has three models that provide anywhere from 15 to 20 housing units across a potential maximum of five buildings at this time. The development would not be reserved or exclusive to a specific age demographic and the hope is to create some two-bedroom and even three-bedroom units that would be more suitable to households with children.
As this process continues to move forward, Ruoff said there are plenty of approval steps still to come and there will be lots of opportunity for the public to weigh in.
“This is a series of many steps and there has been opportunity for public input and that will continue including a town meeting when we get to that point,” she said. “So when we talk about hiring a potential developer, it is just one step in the process of hopefully completing this project in a positive and through manner.”
The committee meetings are public and noticed on the town website.
Editor's note: An earlier verion of this story incorrectly listed Guilford Day Care Center as one of the tenants on the town property.
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