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The proposal by the majority party of the West Hartford Town Council to allow for ADU expansion is simply bad policy for West Hartford and the evidence is clear that it will do nothing but hurt the town, its residents, and lower income families.
Let’s outline the reasons why this is bad policy:
Housing is NOT a problem in West Hartford
- According to the Hartford Business Journal, people continue to leave the state as our tax burdens have become unmanageable and job opportunities have become scarce – West Hartford has seen this issue as well
- Even with the influx of New Yorkers moving to Connecticut due to the pandemic, West Hartford continues to have an abundance of homes for sale in town – according to bestplaces.net, as of March 2019, we were in line with the national average of 1%
- In addition, according to marketwatch.com, West Hartford has been identified as one of the top 20 towns in the nation that will have a large share of homes which will be released from senior citizens by 2027 (12.2%) and will be even greater by 2037 (28.0%) so, there is no housing issue now, nor will there be in the future
- There is already an ordinance in West Hartford that allows for live-in assistance or in-law residing, which is sufficient for the needs of the town
From a pandemic perspective
- Why would you propose to create more density with town residential properties in the middle of a pandemic when the science tells us this creates a more dangerous environment?
From a homeowner income perspective
- According to thinkrealty.com, homes built in the 1940s are too small to build ADUs and West Hartford has an abundance of homes built in that time period and in addition, ADUs are more difficult to sell
- According to an article in Forbes, 2020: The Year Of The ADU, published Dec. 30, 2019, ADUs can lead to additional impact fees on property owners such as park, utility, and school fees, making it difficult for a property owner to earn revenue from an ADU
- A Feb. 3, 2020, article from urban.org/urban-wire, “To Unleash Housing Supply, Allow and Finance Accessory Dwelling Units” mentions ADUs continue to be expensive to build, offering limited loan options, which again make it difficult for property owners to earn revenue from an ADU
Environmental impact issues
- The town still has not conducted an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) – yet we know there are several issues that need to be addressed
- ADUs lead to the creation of illegal AirBnBs or other short-term rentals and does not solve low income home ownership issues according to an article in theseventhstate.com
- ADUs put a burden on town services to recycling, garbage collection, parking and the utility grid
- Single family homes have sewage systems designed for one family, not multiple families residing on the same property
Social, cultural, criminal and wealth building issues support home ownership over ADU rentals
- In a wamu.org article, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich pointed out that “viewed through an equity lens, the benefits associated with relying heavily on ADUs to increase the rental housing stock can disproportionately accrue to wealthier households who can afford to build them, while failing to serve those already cost-burdened by rents
- From hsh.com, an article points out that homeownership continues to be a proven method for building wealth over renting even for low income earners
- A Forbes article from Aug. 12, 2016,”Why Homeownership Matters” points out that home ownership provides unique social benefits to renting as children of homeowners do better in school with higher test scores and lower anti-social behaviors, lower crime and drug usage, they are more likely to be involved in community civic engagements, local elections and volunteer work and health outcomes are better including increases in self-esteem and self-worth
- According to macrotrends.net, as the town of West Hartford has become more dense, crimes such as property crime, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft have been steadily on the rise since 2013 and are now higher in West Hartford than both the state average and the national average
A clear diversion of the real issue
- This proposal by the majority of the Town Council provides a clear spotlight that the intent is not to help lower income families but instead, to distract from the fact that we continue to have unsustainable property tax increases making it impossible for low income earners to own homes in town
- If the majority party wants to make it easier for low income earners to live in West Hartford, they should LOWER property taxes so that low income earners can afford to achieve the benefits of home ownership in our town
- ADUs will not integrate West Hartford with low income residents – instead, by forcing them to rent instead of own homes, it will continue to segregate low income earners who, like anyone else, desire to own a home in West Hartford
I strongly urge our town voters to write emails and call their town council members and tell them this is bad policy for the town. This proposal solves no issues for the town, creates more segregation of low income earners, and distracts from the real issue. I trust the town sees that expansion of ADUs are merely a smokescreen to try and hide the property tax increase burdens caused by the majority party of the town council over many years. More importantly, I trust our town residents see this proposed action as a deterrent for low income earners to own homes in our town, forcing them instead, to rent.
Shawn Daly is vice chair and deputy treasurer of the West Hartford Republican Town Committee.
The West Hartford Town Council has been discussing consideration an ordinance permitting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) – a living space which is subordinate and incidental to the principal dwelling unit and which contains its own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping facilities, and is subject to additional requirements – in committee, and a draft of the ordinance will be likely be on the agenda at a future Town Council meeting. It will be set for public hearing and also referred to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.