Survey: Fairfield residents support affordable housing, but fear negative impact

Fairfield is currently considering an affordable housing proposal on Park Avenue.

Fairfield is currently considering an affordable housing proposal on Park Avenue.

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

FAIRFIELD — Results from a recent housing survey show that residents support more affordable housing, but fear the negative impact development may have on the town’s character.

Over the course of six weeks, Fairfield’s Affordable Housing Committee collected information on how the community feels about current affordable housing issues and options on how to fix the problems. The survey was answered by nearly 1,170 residents.

“I think it’s an interesting observation for us and a way for us to approach how we are going to present recommendations that the committee feels comfortable with to address these issues and concerns head on,” said Glenn Chalder, of Planimetrics, the consulting firm assisting the housing committee.

About 61 percent of those who responded have been in Fairfield for more than 20 years and 85 percent currently live in single-family detached houses, according to the presentation of the survey results during the committee meeting.

However, when factoring in all housing throughout their lives, 36 percent of respondents have lived in multi-unit buildings, 22 percent have lived in duplexes and 94 percent have lived in single family households.

“I think the thing that is often useful about this question is it helps people realize that they lived in a lot of different types of places in the past and they can call on that experience when they get a chance to answer some of the questions that follow,” Chalder said.

Respondents also said they think there is just the right amount of single family, townhouses and duplexes. However, as the bigger projects came into question, 47 percent of responding residents indicated that there were too many multi-unit buildings.

“Almost half of the respondents were clearly not fond of multi-unit buildings and felt that perhaps there were too much of them,” Chalder said. “That may give us some indication overall of the types of development patterns people are perhaps more comfortable with in terms of housing diversity.”

Overall, participants were most supportive of housing options for older people, as well as younger people and families. They were least supportive of housing for affordable to lower-income people and families.

About 63 percent of residents that responded agree that Fairfield should help the housing authority find ways to build more units to address the needs of elderly or disabled people who are lower income.

Only about 49 percent believe Fairfield should build more units to address lower-income families, while 39 percent disagreed.

“There was no clear consensus on that statement,” Chalder said. “Yes, more people agreed than disagreed, but I think in a survey of this type, it is important to recognize that the margin of error around these responses are probably large and somewhat fuzzy so it’s hard to say there is strong support for this.”

If new housing was proposed, 56 percent of residents believe Fairfield should seek to guide new types of housing to areas where water and sewer services are available, 60 percent believe Fairfield should support additional housing in transit-oriented locations and 64 percent believe Fairfield should support mixed-used buildings that have businesses on the ground-floor and residential above.

“I think there is a clear indication that the phraseology sometimes about affordable housing concern and alarms people,”Chalder said. “I think there’s perhaps a concern it might be a scenario that they have seen in other communities and other places and they’re afraid of what that may mean.”

He didn’t elaborate on what those concerns might be.

“I also think from the comments that there are some reactions and responses to some of the more recent projects that have been built and people feel, particularly longer term residents, that that may not be in character with their vision or feeling of Fairfield overall,” he said.

The survey responses will now help create a framework in September that sets an appropriate direction for the town.