Tour of Milford highlights affordable housing opportunities

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — To better grasp the future of affordable housing in the city, officials took to the streets to tour what is already in place and where this housing would be best suited in years to come.

During the affordable housing plan meeting last week, both Julie Nash, the city’s development director, and David Fink, a housing policy consultant for the South Central Regional Council of Governments, said they would drive around the city to analyze potential locations for affordable housing — which they did this week.

“(Residents) said they wanted to see what kind of affordable housing we have now, what things are in mid-development, what things are brand new, so that’s what we did,” said Nash.

The tour took them to various locations — one of them was a potential site on River Street, withh the plan there calling for 12,000 square feet of retail on the bottom level and apartments on top, and another was the Metro Star Development on Broad Street.

“We talked about if there is any more available space downtown for more housing because it is a transit-oriented district, so it is more friendly for people to be carless,” Nash said.

Other visited locations were the Kmart site, which recently received approval to move forward with an apartment plan, the Walnut Beach Condominiums and apartments, senior living apartments and more.

“We went to Forest Glen affordable housing ... I call it like a little village,” said Nash. “I really love that development in Milford, and I would love to replicate something like that. There’s homeownership associated with it, and it’s a nice area for families.”

Nash made sure to have Forest Glen in the housing tour because she believes this is the answer for Milford when it comes to affordable housing.

“We are so family-oriented, and that location is such a wonderful place to live,” she said. “Unfortunately, there is some stigma attached to multi-apartment buildings for some people, and they don’t want to be there. They want to have a backyard for their kids.”

The tour primarily stuck to locations where developments already exist and future developments will exist.

“Housing is such a complex issue,” Nash said. “Personally, it’s more about redevelopment. For a long time, offices are what developers were building, but everything is so cyclical, and offices are in that cyclical moment again. So developers are talking about turning offices into apartments, and those apartments might turn back into offices at some point.

“Re-development and changing spaces is just a sign of the times, and it’s been done for decades, but I think people get nervous about change,” she added.

The Council of Goverments team asked about zoning and whether the city considered inclusionary zoning while on tour.

“We did go through the process of inclusionary zoning a few years ago, but it didn’t go much further than being presented as an idea,” said Nash. “Then he asked about up-zoning, which means creating more density in certain areas appropriate for more affordable housing.”

One of the many interesting things Nash learned about while talking to the SCROG is how the divorce rate affects housing.

“As the divorce rate rises, so does the need for apartments,” she said. “Because either both go to an apartment or one stays with the kids, and the other has to get an apartment, but it creates a situation where a family of four needed one home, now they need two.”

Due to the directive from Connecticut, cities in the state have to create a housing plan.

“In the housing world, there is a zero-built model. There is no place in the housing world that is considered build-up,” said Nash. “And due to the directive, there’s no choice, but we can create it together as a community so that it can reflect our wants and needs for the future. It’s something that we have to do.”

“So we might as well do it together, in a way where we get to where we need to be, we are in compliance, and we are all happy with it,” she added.