Affordable housing units proposed for Wooster Street in Bethel

BETHEL — A local property owner is looking to increase residential space on his Wooster Street land and create two affordable housing units in the process.

The applicant, David Pijnenburg, is looking to add several residential units at 64 Wooster St. — two of which would be designated affordable under Section 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes — for a total of nine apartments on the 0.76-acre parcel.

Pijnenburg originally looked to build 12 units on the property but that number was reduced to nine following discussions with the town’s planning department, according to his attorney, Neil Marcus.

“It was a number that they felt was more appropriate for the size of the lot,” Marcus said.

There is currently a multi-family house with one, two-bedroom and two, three-bedroom units at 64 Wooster St. Pijnenburg is looking to build an additional dwelling with four, one-bedrooms apartments in the rear of the property, as well as add a second story to an existing detached garage to accommodate two, one-bedrooms apartments.

In accordance with 8-30g, two of the units would be designated affordable based on either the area median income or state median income — whichever is less.

Marcus said the theory behind 8-30g is for the market rate units to subsidize the affordable ones.

“A developer sets aside one-third of housing units to be affordable for people earning 60 or 80 percent of the median income, and makes up the cost by having two-thirds of the housing market rate,” Marcus said. “There’s a balance.”

Most municipalities are subject to 8-30g, unless they meet benchmarks a moratorium or more than 10 percent of their housing stock is considered affordable.

“The mandate is they have to provide it,” Marcus said.

Affordable housing outside of Bethel’s downtown area — where it’s been encouraged through zoning regulations and as part of the town’s transit-oriented development plan — has often been unpopular.

Marcus said some people have the idea that affordable housing automatically means Section 8 housing, but that’s not true.

“The 8-30g statute is for people making 60 or 80 percent of the median income — and that’s over $100,000 right now,” he said. “People who earn $60,000 or $80,000 a year — that’s the group you’re looking at.”

The 8-30g statute allows affordable housing developers to bypass local zoning laws, with certain exceptions for health and safety.

“The statute is geared toward getting affordable housing approved, so the grounds upon which an application is turned down is an overriding problem with public health or safety,” he said. “The usual complaints of ‘I don’t like the way it looks’ or ‘I don’t want it in my neighborhood’ don’t apply.”

Over the past several years, a number of affordable housing developments have been proposed, built or approved in town — including the three-story building with 18 affordable units at 49 Taylor Ave. approved in January 2018.

Back in February, property owner Tracy Castelli sought to create 11 affordable housing units at 28 South St. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved her application for the 8-30g affordable housing project two months later.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on Pijnenburg’s application at 7 p.m. next Tuesday. The hearing will take place via Zoom.