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Our home, our future

Voices from the Salisbury community about the housing needed for a healthy, economically vibrant future.

Affordable housing: What are we afraid of?

Are you worried if affordable housing could negatively impact your property values? It’s a common fear. Relax! Research shows that it is not the case. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Real Estate study found no significant differences between home values close to affordable developments and those in other parts of town. http://www.pschousing.org/files/HC-PropertyValues_0.pdf 

The Enterprise Foundation reviewed and summarized 14 research publications, finding that subsidized, special-purpose or manufactured housing had either a positive effect or no negative effect on nearby property values. https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/resources/affordable-housing-and-property-values-13525 

Trulia, an online residential real estate site, conducted a study in 2016 indicating that low-income housing tax credit projects have no impact on the value of nearby properties. https://www.trulia.com/research/low-income-housing 

Another fear concerns who will move in. According to Connecticut Real Estate Management, which manages many of the affordable housing units in the area, the residents who live at Sarum Village, for example, are nearly all from Salisbury, Sharon or Canaan. They’re your neighbors, friends, people who have a connection to the area or people who work in town. Bruce Adams, first selectman in the town of Kent, says that the tenants in their affordable housing “are good folks and have been nothing but a plus for the town. There have been no negative effects on property values in Kent.”

Change is always scary. Unfortunately, Salisbury has been changing whether we like it or not. Young people have been leaving and local businesses increasingly struggle to find and retain the employees they need. By embracing more affordable housing we can help reverse that trend and make our town more vibrant.

 

Salisbury Central School

One of the major attractions to living in Salisbury is the high quality of education offered by Salisbury Central School. As principal of the school, Stephanie Magyar sees firsthand the challenges faced by young families, teachers and other staff who would like to live here. Only 40% of her teaching staff live in Salisbury. The high cost of housing affects her recruitment of staff in general and particularly her ability to attract paraprofessionals, teaching assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians and maintenance staff. For people working part time jobs, travel between home and work is particularly difficult. 

Fortunately, the K-8 school population has remained relatively stable during the past 5 years, helped by the large number of private school faculty’s children who have housing provided by their schools. 

Stephanie says, “We need rentals and zoning that makes it possible to have housing that people can afford. When they live in less expensive towns, their commute is longer and they don’t always send their children to our schools. We have lost employees due to long commutes and have had people turn down job offers due to the high cost of living in the area.” As she’s seen in her own family, people who grew up here and want to stay end up moving to other towns. 

If we want our town to thrive now and for future generations, we need housing that makes it possible for young people to live and work in Salisbury.

 

Kent: Bruce Adams

If we want to have a sense of how affordable housing affects a town like ours, Kent’s longtime First Selectman Bruce Adams is the man to speak with. 

When Kent’s first affordable housing development was built, Bruce, a teacher for 34 years, says that “some of my colleagues and I were worried about what kind of students the housing would bring into our school. We didn’t know how the new residents would affect the town. In the end our concerns couldn’t be farther from the truth… The workmanship of the housing has been good and the tenants have been nothing but a plus for the town.” 

Kent now has 96 affordable rental apartments along with some accessory apartments and a parcel program making land available for families to build on, much like Salisbury’s Housing Trust properties. The Stuart Farm project, for example, even won an Award of Merit in 2015 from the Connecticut Historic Preservation Trust for their adaptation of an 1828 farmhouse, which was otherwise slated for demolition. Another project, South Common, has 24 one- two- and three-bedroom rental apartments within pleasant walking distance to the Village on an attractive 3.9-acre site. 

Funding is always a challenge, especially for rental apartments. In the case of the Stuart Farm Apartments, funding came from the Connecticut Department of Housing, two banks, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, private gifts and support from the people of Kent and the surrounding area. Operating expenses of the apartments are covered by the tenants’ rent and occasional grants. 

Many people worry about the loss of control over who will move in if government funds are involved. Bruce states that “there is a good tenant screening process and the people have been good people, involved in the school… They have been a win/win for the town”. He “supports 100% what it’s done for Kent.”

Mary Close Oppenheimer is a local artist who has been part of the Lakeville/Salisbury community for 30 years.