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What is Workforce Housing and Affordable Housing?

Regarding housing options, two main terms, "workforce housing" and "affordable housing," are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion. While they share similarities, it's essential to understand their critical differences.

DEFINITIONS AND DISTINCTIONS

Workforce and affordable housing aims to provide housing options for individuals with limited income. However, the target demographics and income ranges they cater to set them apart.

Workforce housing primarily provides housing options for moderate-income individuals, such as teachers, firefighters, police, and healthcare workers. Many of these individuals earn too much to qualify for affordable housing subsidies but are priced out of much of our housing market.


Workforce housing is crucial in attracting and retaining moderate-income individuals, sometimes defined as essential workers by the community, ensuring they can live close to their workplaces and contribute to the local economy. Teachers, municipal employees, firefighters, police, and healthcare workers typically come under this definition. 

But many retail food and other service industry workers will fall into the same income range. In most cases, they would be eligible for incentive programs geared toward workforce housing development. 


Affordable housing, on the other hand, generally refers to homes priced below the market rate, making them accessible to low-income individuals and families. 

Government programs or nonprofit organizations typically subsidize these properties to ensure affordability. Affordable housing initiatives aim to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable members of society, providing them with safe and stable housing options.

Many of our retail, service industry, child care, school staff, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers,  volunteer emergency response, food service, landscaping, and construction workers, all of which are essential in their own way, fall into the income levels for affordable housing.

PURPOSE AND GOALS OF WORKFORCE HOUSING

The purpose of workforce housing is to bridge the gap between affordable housing and market-rate housing. It serves as a middle ground for individuals who earn too much to qualify for affordable housing but need help to afford the high cost of living in certain areas. Workforce housing helps ensure that essential workers can live near their workplaces, reducing commute times and improving their quality of life.

The goals of workforce housing include:

  • Retaining essential workers: By providing affordable housing options for moderate-income individuals, communities can attract and retain key workers who play a vital role in various sectors, such as education, healthcare, and public safety.
  • Supporting local economies: When essential workers can afford to live near their workplaces, they contribute to the local economy by spending their income within the community. This, in turn, helps stimulate economic growth and development.
  • Creating diverse communities: Workforce housing promotes socio-economic diversity within communities, fostering a healthy mix of individuals from different income levels. This diversity enhances community cohesion and creates a more vibrant and inclusive environment.

PURPOSE AND GOALS OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Affordable housing initiatives primarily aim to address the housing needs of low-income individuals and families. The purpose is to ensure that everyone, regardless of income level, has access to safe and affordable housing options.

The goals of affordable housing include:

  • Alleviating poverty and homelessness: Affordable housing is crucial in reducing poverty and preventing homelessness by providing stable and affordable housing options for those who cannot afford market-rate rentals or homeownership.
  • Promoting social equity: Access to affordable housing is fundamental to social equity. Affordable housing initiatives aim to reduce disparities and provide equal opportunities for individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Enhancing well-being and stability: Stable housing is essential for individuals and families to thrive. Affordable housing helps create a sense of stability, allowing individuals to focus on other aspects of their lives, such as education, employment, and personal growth.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING


Affordable housing eligibility criteria are typically based on income levels and may vary depending on the specific program or initiative. These programs often follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to determine income eligibility.

To qualify for affordable housing, individuals or families must have incomes below a certain percentage of the area median income (AMI). The AMI is calculated based on the median income of the specific geographic region or metropolitan area.

In addition to income limits, affordable housing programs may also consider factors such as household size, assets, and citizenship status. These criteria ensure that the housing units are allocated to those most in need and can benefit from affordable housing options.

CHALLENGES AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WORKFORCE HOUSING

Despite its importance, workforce housing faces several challenges and misconceptions that can hinder its development and acceptance in communities. It's essential to address these issues to create a better understanding of the benefits and necessity of workforce housing.

One common misconception is that workforce housing will negatively impact property values and increase crime rates in the surrounding areas. However, studies have shown that well-designed and well-managed workforce housing developments have no adverse effects on property values and crime rates. They can contribute to neighborhood revitalization and improved community safety.


Another challenge is the need for more available land for workforce housing development, especially in areas with high housing demand and limited space. This scarcity of land can drive up property prices, making it challenging to create housing options for our local workforce. Collaboration between developers, local governments, and community organizations is crucial in identifying suitable locations and finding innovative solutions to overcome this challenge.

CHALLENGES AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Affordable housing initiatives also face challenges and misconceptions that can hinder their implementation and acceptance. Addressing these challenges ensures everyone can access safe and affordable housing options.

Like workforce housing, the misconception that it will negatively impact property values and increase crime rates in the surrounding area, studies have shown that well-designed and well-managed workforce housing developments have no adverse effects on property values and crime rates.

Another common misconception is that affordable housing will lead to the concentration of poverty in specific neighborhoods. However, affordable housing initiatives aim to create economically diverse communities, promoting social equity and breaking down barriers that perpetuate poverty. By providing stable housing options for low-income individuals, affordable housing can help break the cycle of poverty and foster upward mobility.

Educating communities about the importance of affordable housing and its positive impact on individuals and communities is crucial for overcoming this challenge and fostering acceptance.

THE IMPACT OF WORKFORCE HOUSING AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON OUR COMMUNITY

Both workforce and affordable housing significantly impact communities, ranging from economic benefits to improved social well-being. Understanding these impacts helps policymakers and community members recognize the value of investing in and supporting these housing options.

  • Economic benefits: Workforce and affordable housing contribute to local economies by attracting and retaining essential workers and providing stable housing options for low-income individuals. This, in turn, supports local businesses, creates job opportunities, and stimulates economic growth.
  • Community stability: Stable housing is essential for individuals and families to thrive and create strong communities. Workforce housing and affordable housing initiatives provide stability and security, allowing individuals to focus on other aspects of their lives, such as education, employment, and personal growth.
  • Social equity and inclusivity: Workforce and affordable housing promote social equity by providing housing options for individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds. These initiatives foster inclusive communities with equal opportunities to succeed and thrive.
  • Reduced commute times and environmental impact: By providing housing options near workplaces, both workforce and affordable housing can reduce commute times and the associated costs and environmental impact. This leads to improved quality of life for individuals and a more sustainable approach to transportation.

WHAT IS AN "AFFORDABLE HOUSING" DEVELOPMENT?

According to the Connecticut General Statute 8-30g, affordable housing development is a housing project that falls under either the following categories: (A) assisted housing or (B) a set-aside development.

ASSISTED HOUSING

Refers to housing currently or will soon receive financial aid through various government programs. This assistance is explicitly provided for the construction or significant renovation of housing aimed at low and moderate-income individuals. Additionally, it includes housing occupied by individuals who receive rental assistance under Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 319uu or Section 1437f of Title 42 of the United States Code.

SET-ASIDE DEVELOPMENT

Set-aside development is where at least 30% of the dwelling units are sold or rented at affordable prices. These units must remain affordable for at least 40 years after the development is initially occupied. The prices of these units must ensure that residents pay 30% or less of their annual income towards housing costs, provided their income is less than or equal to 80% of the median income.

Within a set-aside development, specific requirements exist for distributing affordable units. Of all the dwelling units in the development, at least 15% must be sold or rented to individuals and families whose income is less than or equal to 60% of the median income. The remaining affordable units must be sold or rented to individuals and families with incomes less than or equal to 80% of the median income.

Set-aside developments aim to provide affordable housing options for low-income individuals and families. By ensuring a percentage of units are sold or rented at affordable prices, these developments help to address the issue of housing affordability and promote socio-economic diversity within communities.

Overall, set-aside developments play a crucial role in creating more inclusive and accessible housing options for individuals and families with lower incomes, helping to bridge the gap between housing costs and income levels.



What is the New Milford Housing Partnership Committee?


Committee Focus:

  • Identify housing needs and opportunities and explore the availability of property suitable for affordable/workforce housing.
  • Review zoning and other municipal regulations that impact the availability and development of affordable/workforce housing to develop long-range plans.
  • Explore and implement funding options for affordable/workforce housing development. 

Reference: CT Department of Housing Connecticut Housing Partnership Program regulations Sec. 8-336f page 1 (10-96)

Committee Goals:

  • Ensure that any future or existing affordable/workforce housing options are aligned with the community's goals of diversity and equity.
  • Facilitate a network of community members, municipal leaders,  non-profit and for-profit developers to increase affordable/workforce housing proactively.
  • Examine and Identify a variety of housing options for all ages and income levels while maintaining community character and considering fiscal impacts.
  • Create a constituency of advocates and experts to help provide support and guidance to municipal officials, interested developers, and community members on affordable/workforce housing development.

Committee Short-Term Objectives:

  • To determine existing barriers, reach out to existing approved affordable/workforce housing projects that are not yet actively under construction.
  • Establish New Milford Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It shall be a town-owned fund specifically for collecting and disbursing funds to develop affordable/workforce housing solutions that meet our community's needs. Partner with local/regional nonprofit and for-profit developers and organizations interested in helping New Milford meet its more diverse and affordable/workforce housing needs.
  • Research existing municipal, vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties for possible affordable housing re/development.
  • Research the use of Community Land Trusts and Land Banks as vehicles to purchase, manage and redevelop land deed-restricted (50% AMI) affordable/workforce housing developments that are not as fiscally feasible with for-profit/private developers.

Long Term and ongoing Objectives:

 

  • Help to develop and implement an Affordable Housing Plan as required by CGS 8-30j, and a Comprehensive Local Housing Strategy as per CGS8-336f. Based on that plan, a municipal affordable housing strategy should be recommended to complement the town's physical character. We shall partner with the town zoning officer, mayor, town attorney, planning and zoning committees and seek community input on the strategy.
  • Explore the adoption of an Incentive Housing Overlay Zone to provide workforce/affordable housing in partnership with our town zoning officer, mayor, and planning and zoning committees.
  • Continue funding of and research into the permanent financing of the New Milford Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • Continue informing and educating our community through our website and/or social media about all of our affordable and workforce housing opportunities.
  • Help to meet and surpass our goal of 10% of housing being considered diverse, equitable, and of most of all, affordable by the State of CT statutes.
  • Encourage incremental and sustainable growth and diversity of all housing types to keep in the spirit of our town's love for open spaces and their physical charm and character.

 

Current New Milford Housing and Economic Data


2023 CT DATA COLLECTIVE HOUSING PROFILE 

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2023 NEW MILFORD EQUITY PROFILE
 
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