The cover of Westport’s 46-page “Affordable Housing Plan,” which was adopted in June by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — The town has a five-year plan designed to provide more “affordable housing.”

The plan, mandated by the state, was adopted in June by the Planning and Zoning Commission. It followed a months-long series of public “conversations” and meetings on the thorny topic.

Westport’s affordable housing plan, a 46-page document, reviews the existing inventory of housing units that qualify as affordable under state criteria, as well as proposals that might help boost that supply. 

Those suggestions range from acquiring land for housing development, establishing a trust fund to promote such projects, expanding the scope of the town’s “inclusionary housing” zone overlay, exploring ways to allow denser development within residential zones and initiatives such as “pocket neighborhoods” of affordable homes.

The report also notes P&Z decisions over the last several years to settle several long-running lawsuits with developers over housing plans that are projected to add “225 multifamily units, including 70 affordable units” to the town’s housing inventory.

The local plan was rated among the better proposals prepared by Fairfield County communities, according to an analysis by a group that promotes housing opportunities.

Now comes the hard part — taking action on the plan.

The P&Z’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee begins that process when it meets at noon Wednesday, Nov. 16, to consider concrete steps that might be taken to implement some of the broad suggestions in the plan.

The meeting will take place electronically; click here for the agenda and online link.

The discussions take place as town officials scramble to secure an extension of its moratorium of the state’s 8-30g law. The controversial statute broadly grants developers the right to sidestep local zoning regulations if a community falls short of having at least 10 percent of its overall housing stock qualify as “affordable.”

Westport’s current moratorium to 8-30g is set to expire at the end of next February.

Affordable house and the 8-30g law were hotly debated in the just-concluded campaigns for the state General Assembly. Even candidates who expressed support for the goal of providing more affordable housing, particularly in pricey Fairfield County — such as state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and state Rep.-elect Dominique Johnson — called for changes to be made in the law.

John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.