Fairfield eyes affordable housing at Tunxis Hill Park

Photo of Katrina Koerting
File photo of Tunxis Hill Park in Fairfield, Conn. on Wednesday July 10, 2013. The town is considering using an undeveloped part of the park away from the ball fields for affordable housing.

File photo of Tunxis Hill Park in Fairfield, Conn. on Wednesday July 10, 2013. The town is considering using an undeveloped part of the park away from the ball fields for affordable housing.

Christian Abraham / Christian Abraham

FAIRFIELD — The town is looking into purchasing property to build affordable housing next to Tunxis Hill Park.

Under a proposal presented to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, Fairfield would buy 244 Greenfield Street for $232,000 and combine it with about a half acre from the nearby park to construct one or two duplexes, according to Director of Community and Economic Development Mark Barnhart.

The units would be deed restricted for people or families at 80 percent of median area income, he said.

“This was not really on our radar as something we had planned, but the opportunity presented itself,” Barnhart said told the commission.

He said the money would come from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which was established to help provide affordable housing in town. The deal would need the approval of the town’s Board of Selectmen.

“This seems like the perfect fit for the purpose of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that we created a couple of years ago,” said Matthew Wagner, TPZ chairman.

The deed restriction would be in perpetuity.

Barnhart said if the town secured more subsidies, the restriction could go lower than 80 percent of the median area income. But the original plan had been to make the property ownership housing, which tends to work best with the 80 percent threshold, he said.

“That’s not necessarily cast in stone at this point,” he said.

The parks and recreation commission has already signed off on the idea of using part of the park for affordable housing, Barnhart said.

“This is a small piece of the nearby Tunxis Hill Park,” he said. “It is an unimproved wooded section.”

He said there is still adequate buffer between where the buildings would go and the recreation areas of the park.

Barnhart said the proposal made sense because it abutted town property and it’s close to shopping and bus lines. There is also another property the town built nearby for the same use back in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Greenfield Street site currently has a single-family home that Barnhart said was recently used as a rental investment property. There is also a shed on the property.

The Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended the selectmen approve using the money to buy the property and use part of the park for affordable housing. The actual building proposal will come before the commission as a development project later if the sale and use are approved by all of the needed town bodies.

“This is something we had really imagined in the pipeline for years,” Wagner said, adding the commission started with the regulations to establish the fund years ago and then began collecting donations and certain land use fees for it so the town would be ready when an opportunity presented itself.