An affordable housing advocate, a planner and a developer led a Ridgefield League of Women Voters discussion Monday, and it sounds like Ridgefield is ready for affordable housing.
"It's noble and appropriate," said Helen Dimos, who asked the panel if the town of Ridgefield could take the lead in building affordable housing. Dimos serves on an architectural review committee, and she said some of the affordable housing proposals are ugly, in the wrong place and over-crowded. "It's a neighborhood buster."
Dave Goldenberg, a member of the Affordable Housing Committee, spoke about the need for Affordable Housing in Ridgefield, saying the elderly need smaller homes or apartments, families in difficulty need affordable housing, skilled and unskilled workers in town need affordable housing and there isn't enough.
"Business people are saying they can't afford to hire people who can afford to live here," Goldenberg said. "Skilled and unskilled workers are driving great distances to come to work in Ridgefield."
Betty Brosius, the Director of Planning for the Town of Ridgefield, spoke about her efforts to apply for a four-year moratorium on building affordable housing in Ridgefield. She said that would give time for the town to figure out how it could address affordable housing on its own. Brosius said 13 are approved, and of those eight are finished or under construction.
State law requires a town to have 10 percent of its housing be affordable by meeting federal income and rent standards, but Ridgefield has about 3 percent. That means developers can propose affordable housing in Ridgefield and the only way the town can reject the plan is if the housing is harmful to the public health, safety and welfare.
"If you don't have 10 percent of your units affordable, a developer can come in," Brosius said. Some were attractive and were unopposed, but some were ugly and inappropriate, and neighbors opposed them.
The third panelist was Steve Zemo, who built Beechtree with 43 units on Route 35, and Governor House with 16 units on Governor Street.
Zemo said he'd like to see the state law changed to give towns more of a say in where affordable housing can be built.
"I'd like to see the towns show more initiative in building affordable housing," Zemo said, and he'd like to see balance between the need for affordable housing while keeping an eye on the fact some towns feel overrun by affordable housing proposals.