Survey shows where residents want affordable housing in Fairfield

Fairfield is currently considering an affordable housing proposal.

Fairfield is currently considering an affordable housing proposal.

Contributed photo /

FAIRFIELD — Residents want affordable housing in Fairfield Woods and Brookelawn, but not as much in Southport, Lake Hills, Greenfield Hill and the university area, according to a recent survey.

Fairfield’s Affordable Housing Committee members have recently taken a deeper dive into the results generated from last month’s housing survey. Over the course of six weeks, the 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.

Analyst Urb Leimkuhler said the survey does present some skewed responses though. Some demographic segments are notably over-represented, such as Stratfield residents who are 65 or older and have lived in Fairfield for 20 or more years. Renters are among the segment of residents that were vastly under-represented.

Leimkuhler believes the data provides enough information to gauge certain trends in different neighborhoods even with over and under represented segments.

The general consensus of the survey showed that residents support more affordable housing, but fear the negative impact development may have on the town’s character. However, when the committee broke down the data even further by neighborhood, neighborhoods with longer-term residents are notably less inclined.

Committee Chair Stephen Grathwohl said the prior development and zoning was focused on the east and southeast part of the town. The bigger lots and greenery were in Greenfield Hill.

“Seventy years ago, you couldn’t really build much up in Greenfield Hill other than single-family homes because you needed the septic and you didn’t have the sewers,” Grathwohl said. “Technology today would allow us to build up there if we wanted to. If there was really a desire. But it’s so disconnected to the services that working families might need, but everyone has a car these days too.”

Leimkuhler said “not surprisingly” survey results separated by household income show lower income residents support more affordable housing. There were also trends among the type of housing those who responded lived in with those in single-family homes showing less interest.

“So for interest in terms of providing more housing for older residents, this is popular pretty much across the board. Most notably from longer-term residents and seniors or people aged 55 or older,” Leimkuhler said. “It’s interesting to see that people under 35, there was less interest and less interest for relatively new residents.

“Interest in terms of more housing for younger residents was pretty wide spread,” he added. “But it’s interesting to see that certain neighborhoods especially the longer-term residents in those neighborhoods, I would highlight Lake Hills and Southport, are not so interested in this at all. There was also less interest by people who were 10- to 14-year residents.”

Housing for service workers was also an important discussion the committee had while reviewing the detailed survey results, According to the results, there was broad support for housing people that work in town, but don’t necessarily live in town such as first responders and educators. However, there were variations across neighborhoods.

Leimkuhler said that the detailed survey results were very neighborhood oriented and the information provided gives the committee information and a great opportunity to understand where to build more housing.

“Certain neighborhoods were certainly less inclined and certain neighborhoods were much more enthusiastic about the prospect,” Leimkuhler said. “So this may be something that if the show goes on the road, we can really drill down and understand what are some of the concerns, worries and issues that certain segments of our population have.”

Another factor that the Affordable Housing Committee and Leimkuhler found interesting was the percentage of residents who feel cost-burden with housing. The committee defines cost-burden as residents who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

The survey shows the 38 percent of residents feel cost-burden in Fairfield.

Leimkuhler said understanding what cost-burden means across the town is vital in the committee’s quest to provide housing as well as update the Plan of Conservation and Development, however, Leimkuhler said cost-burden has different meanings depending on the person. For seniors, it could mean their housing may be their “biggest expenditure” and for younger residents, they may have “bought properties at much higher amounts.”

“This is pretty interesting,” Leimkuhler said.