Representative Town Meeting members Matthew Mandell, left and Seth Braunstein were the sponsors of the resolution to create the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. / File photos

By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Starting Friday, a new “inclusionary zoning fee” will be imposed on permits issued for local construction projects, with the revenue allocated to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The fee —  $5 for every $1,000 in construction costs — won final approval from the Representative Town Meeting on Feb. 6, which had been recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission a month earlier.

The housing fund was established to help the town comply with goals outlined in its state-mandated “Affordable Housing Plan,” adopted by the P&Z in 2022.

The fund, according to officials’ estimates, could raise about $1 million annually, with its resources devoted to promote a variety of initiatives to increase the town’s inventory of housing deemed “affordable” by state criteria.

Money could be used, for instance, to acquire land or facilitate construction and/or maintenance of new or existing affordable housing units in town. The concept emerged after several months of review by the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee and various RTM committees. 

The fund’s primary sponsors were RTM members Matthew Mandell, District 1, and Seth Braunstein, District 6.

Use of the fund, including investment dividends, would be restricted to affordable housing projects.

Administration of the fund will be overseen by a new five-person committee, which has yet to be formally established.

In addition to raising money from the inclusionary zoning fee, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is authorized to accept donations — and in January was the recipient of an anonymous $10,000 gift.

Several other suburban communities in Fairfield County have already adopted variations of a trust fund to promote affordable housing initiatives, and their primary source of revenue also comes from fees on zoning and building permits.