Challenges: Good Questions, Good Answers

 

Although there was general support for the revitalization of Four Corners, there was some opposition to the affordable housing component of the plan from the community. As Dew recalled, people asked, “What kind of people? How many people? Will the schools be inundated with these kids?” Poole said that there were misconceptions about the effects that multifamily units would have in the community. He addressed these concerns by providing “third-party research to identify that there is little difference between market-rate housing and subsidized housing if subsidized housing is well-maintained and has affordability guidelines.”

               
Newbury Village, Brookfield, CT

 

Town officials and Poole responded to concerns about who was moving in by explaining the population demanding affordable housing. “The affordability guidelines were relatively high,” Poole said. Dew recalled having conversations to inform community members that many of the tenants would include elderly people looking to downsize, divorced individuals that need to find a new living situation, and young professionals such as those in residency at Danbury Hospital. According to James Purcell, Major at the Brookfield Police Department, the new housing developments have not impacted the crime rate. He said, “there has been a little uptick in calls for service, just minor things, but there has been no criminal activity.” 

Newbury Village, Brookfield, CT

Town officials also responded to concerns about increased school enrollment and costs with the projected data from the Four Corners Brookfield Town Center Revitalization Plan. According to that data, with both the Modest Household Growth Scenario and Flat Household Growth Scenario, there would be an annual positive return for the town of Brookfield considering all of the costs as well as opportunity costs. The number of school-aged children that move into affordable units is often overestimated. Residential Demographic Multipliers, a study from Rutgers University’s School of Planning and Public Policy for the Fannie Mae Foundation in 2006, estimated the average number of school-aged children to move into affordable housing units in the state of Connecticut. Based on this report, on average and specific to multifamily housing units, there were 0.04 school-aged children in one-bedroom homes, 0.27 school-aged children in two-bedroom homes, and 1.21 school-aged children in 3-bedroom homes. The vast majority of affordable units in Brookfield are one- and two-bedroom apartments. Furthermore, according to the Brookfield Strategic School Profile 2012-2013, there was a -5.4% 5-Year Enrollment Change, which suggests that increasing the school-aged children population in town would be beneficial for a healthy community in the future and not add to school costs.

Property values are also often a concern with affordable housing proposals. However, the housing developments are anticipated to increase the value of property at Four Corners. “The complaints that we are getting are that everything looks vacant. Once things start happening, I think the property values will go up,” Dew said. 

There have also been challenges working with the developers. Branhaven River and Farms LLC, the developer of Renaissance, initially proposed a six-story apartment building with 156 units to be located at 777 Federal Road. The community voiced their concerns about the size of this development and how it would negatively impact the vision for Four Corners. There was also the issue of fire safety; volunteer firefighters were not trained and equipped to extinguish fires in a six-story building. The town officials and the developer worked together to find an agreement: the revised plan for Renaissance includes two three-story apartment buildings with 120 units total, 10% of which are affordable. 

As the case in Brookfield demonstrates, the role of the town officials is vital in advocating for housing that aligns with the community’s vision as well as recognizing the developer’s limitations with financing this project. 

A Deeper Look Inside Brookfield

Next steps - Learn about how Brookfield took on their affordable housing challenge: