October 10, 2010                                                                       
The Housing Corporation is full of enthusiasm following July’s award of a HUD 202 Elderly Housing grant to create ten units of affordable elderly housing on our site south of Bairds in Cornwall Bridge.  The well-attended public information meeting in September gave us more encouragement that we are moving in a direction approved by many.  We are aware, however, that not everyone shares this viewpoint, and we would like to correct some misinformation about our plans which people have told us is circulating.  Here are our responses to these concerns.

 

Concern:  “HUD will be able to arbitrarily substitute young disabled people in place of the elderly population you say you want to house.  This has happened in Torrington.”

Response:  HUD has many programs.  Our project is under their Section 202 Elderly Housing program.  The Torrington Housing Authority is under the HUD Public Housing program.  They are not related or similar.  The Cornwall HUD 202 project cannot lose its elderly designation, as can happen in the Public Housing program.  In the HUD 202 program only persons aged 62 or older are eligible.  The HUD program for people with disabilities has specifically been separated from the HUD 202 program, so that the HUD 202 program is only for those aged 62 or older.

Concern:  “The CHC never considered the possibility of bonding this project, so that we could have limited the applicants to Cornwall residents.”

Response:  Even had the money not come from a public source, Fair Housing laws would require that we not exclude any group of applicants, such as those not already living in Cornwall.  It is true that applicants may come from anywhere, though the experience of neighboring towns indicates that a high percentage of them have a prior connection to the town in which they want to live.  We will be permitted to establish “preferences”, so long as they don’t act to exclude any group.

Response:  Within the first week after our information meeting on September 18, we had inquiries from five Cornwall residents who wanted to sign a waiting list.

Response:  Bonding was considered only before we heard of the HUD 202 program.  We wanted this undertaking to be as infinitesimal a tax burden on the town as could be.  The project is going to cost in excess of $2,000,000, and will need an operating subsidy of about $50,000 per year, or another $2,000,000 over the course of its 40-year operating term.  We have engineered this huge conglomeration of grants for the Town so that residents don’t even have to be asked about paying for bonding through tax increases. 

Concern:  “These apartments are going to be too small to attract people.  They should be larger, have second bedrooms and much more storage space.”

Response:  The apartments are small, but this apparently does not deter applicants, for whom there is a two- to three-year wait at similar housing in Kent and North Canaan.

Response:  The Housing Corporation will have some leeway to provide extra amenities for which it raises the funds itself, but it will not be possible to do anything as dramatic as double the number of bedrooms.  Following a suggestion heard at the public meeting on September 18, we are exploring the possibility of fitting out the common space so that it can be used as short term accommodation for overnight guests.

Response:  These apartments are not intended as an alternative to a place like Geer Village.  They are for elderly people on a limited income (the ceiling is currently $30,100 for a single person).  Because of the grant subsidies, residents are charged only 30% of their income for rent, which includes maintenance, utilities and all the services provided by the Property Manager-Resident Assistance Coordinator.  According to our explorations in neighboring towns, people who choose to come live here will be extremely happy with the trade-off of space for economy.

Concern:  “Everything about this project is already settled, and is being imposed on the town.”

Response:  The CHC board has been receptive to both formal and informal input from town residents.  We have already incorporated suggestions heard at the September 18 meeting, and expect to have further public meetings as planning progresses.  A Board of Directors of the new Cornwall Elderly Housing Corporation will include new members who volunteered their services following the public information meeting.

 

If you have questions about the project, please ask any of the board members listed below.  If we don’t know the answer right away, we can get it.  

Jane Bean  Margaret Cooley  Bill Fairbairn  Paul Prindle
Ginni Block  Ella Clark  Denny Frost   Maura Reilly
Earl Brecher Cheryl Evans  Wynne Kavanagh Dusty Sandmeyer
Will Calhoun   Heather Dinneen  Marie Prentice  Wayde Wolfe