First Selectman Jeb Walker wants to expand New Canaans stock of affordable housing, even though it may be a tough task to pull off.
Walker says he knows how taxing it can be for municipal employees, such as police officers and teachers, who have to travel long distances to get to work. He also identifies because he grew up in affordable housing in Washington, D.C. I know how many people have to travel so far, and reducing that [travel] time would change their lives, Walker said.
Proving more affordable housing will be a challenge, the first selectman said. Weve got more to do, and in order to do more than whats available, it will require a donation, or acquisition of land that is scarce, and it is prohibitively expensive, Walker said. Its going to be a long time before we acquire another tract of land and before we go through the process again.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes realizes the challenges for communities like New Canaan. In a recent interview with Main Street Connect reporters and editors, Himes credited Walker for being a serious advocate for affordable housing who has tried to make more housing available. Himes likes the idea of smart zoning, similar to what is being done in New York City, to create mixed-income communities, though he said it will take work on the state and federal levels.
The New Canaan Housing Authority currently manages Mill Apartments and Millport Apartments off Millport Avenue. Walker said he would like to expand Mill Apartments. More might have been done if not for conflicting state and federal regulations, he said. The town recently formed a committee to investigate creating an incentive housing overlay zone through the HOME Connecticut program. Such a zone would permit higher- density housing than is allowed under current town rules.
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