Brookfield’s Four Corners: Focusing On A Location For A New Town Center & Mixed-Income Homes

 
Riverview Townhouses, Brookfield, CT

The town of Brookfield, in western Connecticut, needed a wider array of housing options, particularly those affordable to downsizing Baby Boomers, cash-strapped Millennials and working families. Town officials recognized that they could avoid the controversial provisions of the 8-30g statute – which can permit developers to override local zoning and create affordable homes in towns where less than 10% of the housing stock is affordable -- by proactively zoning areas for new housing projects.  A unique alignment of needs and opportunities – and a thoughtful effort at community education and conversation -- allowed for the focused development at Four Corners, a community crossroads located on the Route 7 bypass. After Route 7 was rebuilt in 2010, the commercial strip along the old version of the north-south thoroughfare saw increasingly less traffic and activity. The community considered a plan to revitalize the area to address the demand for both a town center district and more affordable housing options. Through numerous town meetings, charrettes, and social media outreach initiatives such as “Envision Brookfield 2025”, the town officials developed a clear vision to make Four Corners the town center district with numerous affordable housing developments.

Demographics of Brookfield

Housing in Brookfield is relatively expensive and there is a demand for more affordable, smaller rental units within mixed-income, multifamily developments. As of 2013, 35% of homeowners and 43% of renters were spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. The median home value was $376,700 and the median gross rent was $1,392/month. Brookfield’s population and growth trends suggested that the need for multifamily and mixed-income housing choices would continue to rise. By 2025, a 25% decline in school-aged population and a 39% increase in 65+ population were projected. Brookfield officials realized it was important to anticipate the needs of (a) aging Baby Boomers looking to downsize because they are no longer interested in or capable of maintaining a large home, and (b) millennials that prefer smaller rental spaces as a result of college debt that, in Connecticut, is 6th highest in the nation. Said Harold Kurfehs, chairman of the town’s economic development commission: “As in many areas in the state, we are losing younger people and are gaining on empty nesters who want to downsize.  This divergence is not economically helpful.  Rentals will help both—young professionals will have an option to stay, and downsizers will be able to remain in town with family and friends.”  There is another benefit as well: when the younger people who stay start their family formation they will be in a position to buy the downsizing Baby Boomers’ homes.