Sunday, January 24, 2021

Local News

New Affordable Development on Guilford’s State Street Hosts Virtual Groundbreaking

Local leaders and town officials joined together last week on Zoom for a “virtual groundbreaking” on a new affordable housing development situated at 376 State Street, which will create new home ownership opportunities in Guilford with environmentally friendly construction.

The 10-unit community, composed of 1,400 to 1,700 square foot “cottages,” has been led and championed by Chris Widmer and his Guilford-based non-profit Green Planet Company (GPC). Widmer told the Courier he expects construction to begin very soon, possibly even in the next week or two.

State Senator Christine Cohen (D-12) and State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) both offered their support at the groundbreaking, emphasizing the need for affordable housing in town and lauding the specific design philosophy Widner used, which aims for a low environmental footprint and high efficiency systems. Both legislators are on the ballot for the Nov. 3 elections.

“It’s absolutely a myth...that affordable housing has to be these high-rise apartment buildings in urban centers, built with low-quality materials in run-down neighborhoods,” Cohen said. “What [GPC] is executing is a melding of these two really important concepts...the necessity of more affordable housing in sought-after suburban areas with green, sustainable building practices.”

Houses will likely be sold for around $180,000 to $260,000, and will be sold to working-class families, according to Widner, with total costs and fees not to exceed 30 percent of the person’s income.

The project, which is GPC’s first in Guilford, according to Widmer, received a variety of funding, mostly through the state Department of Housing. One unit will be ADA accessible, and the other nine will be easily converted to ADA accessibility, Widmer said.

The houses will also follow guidelines from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Net Zero Energy Ready program, which requires houses to be 40 to 50 percent more energy efficient than “a typical new home,” according to the DOE’s website.

Widmer said the project has received widespread support around the state and especially in town, particularly noting how town officials and the Planning & Zoning Commission helped move the process along—something that is not always the case with affordable housing.

“The zoning process for affordable housing can sometimes just be a nightmare,” Widmer said. “But here it wasn’t. Granted, we have one of the toughest inland wetlands commissions along the shoreline, and they were conservative about a lot of things...but we did our best to accommodate them.”

In the end, having the approval of these boards, along with assistance from officials like Town Engineer Janice Plaziak, made the whole process relatively smooth, according to Widmer. He lauded Guilford in particular for going above and beyond with its support in a number of ways, including paying to extend a sidewalk to connect the development and working with him to install a fire hydrant on the property.

Widmer said the foundation of wanting a program like this is offering the opportunity to live in Guilford to those who might not otherwise be able to—current residents who are downsizing or people from other areas who want to experience all of what the town has to offer.

Single-parent families in particular, along with “empty-nesters” who might need to downsize are two of those demographics Widmer said he most hoped could find a home in the new development. He said he thought GPC would reach out to the Women & Family Life Center, which has on multiple occasions expressed the need for this type of housing for its clients.

“There are families that are doing a great job—maybe they work locally or along the shoreline,” Widmer said. “But being able to provide housing to that population would be great.”


Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Jesse at j.williams@shorepublishing.com.

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