At its Monday meeting, the council of aldermen increased affordable housing in the city through incentives. The change follows the passage of zoning inclusion legislation earlier this year.
Yash Roy, Contributing Photographer
New Haven will streamline its half-century-old tax break program in hopes of spurring new “mixed-income” developments that will offer a mix of affordable and commercial housing.
The Board of Alders on Monday passed an amendment to the city’s tax deferral program, which previously allowed buildings with only either market or affordable housing to qualify for a deferral program.
Alders also approved a development on Dixwell Avenue with one affordable unit and four market priced units that can benefit from this new mitigation scheme. Both were sponsored by Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison.
“Today is just one affordable unit, tomorrow we’re going to have 100,” Morrison said. “We will ensure that residents have the ability to remain in their communities and developers have the incentive to ensure their market price is protected as well.”
Originally created in 1975, the Assessment Deferral Program allows developers who increase property values by 35 percent to freeze property taxes and pay them for five years.
The program was originally aimed at market developments without affordable units, as affordable housing has its own reduction program – the Low Income and Supportive Housing Tax Agreement (LISHTA). Under previous ordinances, only one building in the entire city could claim one of these programs.
But with the city’s recent passage of an inclusion ordinance that requires 20 percent of housing units to be affordable, the mitigation program is more difficult to apply, Morrison said.
One example — a catalyst for Monday night’s action — is the new five-story, 176-unit apartment at 176-186 Canal Street and 291-309 Ashmun Street. Developers hoped to take advantage of both mitigation programs.
Developers hope to add 59 affordable housing units; But Steve Fontana, deputy director for economic development, told Morrison in a letter Monday that developers couldn’t do it without changing the program.
“The developer had the inclusion of zones in mind,” Morrison said. “They were not eligible for the deferral program because the language was archaic and that needs clarification.”
With Monday’s change, this program will now include multi-use lots, where a building can provide both affordable and mixed-use housing.
This language update falls under the policy objective “high-quality, affordable housing”, as described in the Board of Alders’ latest Legislative Agenda.
“We will ensure that residents have the ability to remain in their communities and developers have the incentive to ensure their market price is protected as well,” Morrison said.
Dixwell Ave to see affordable new construction housing unit
A municipal abandoned garage on Dixwell Ave. is now one step closer to a new look after receiving official approval from the owner of Brick Oven Pizza, who plans to build five apartments on the site.
The new zoning plan agreed upon by the city and developer includes five apartments, at least one of which will be an affordable housing unit whose rents are affordable for a tenant earning 60 percent of the area’s median income. This rental level must be maintained for the next 20 years.
Morrison, who has represented the community for 11 years, says the city had been trying to sell the property before he was elected, adding he is excited at the opportunity to facilitate its development.
Kadir Catalbasoglu, who owns Brick Oven Pizza and another condominium complex at 59 Dixwell, has attempted to buy the property and develop it since 2017.
“I’m buying the land because it’s an eyesore at the moment and I want to develop it as I own the land right next door,” Catalbasoglu told News.
According to Morrison, the lot went through several bids, but an issue always prevented the sale.
The original agreement, the alders approved In 2017, Catalbasoglu would allow the space to be converted into two apartments and a commercial building.
The owner of the property just off 55 Dixwell, Yehoshua Rosenstein, sued to prevent the deal by saying he owned part of the driveway that was on the property. The lawsuit has now been resolved.
Morrison explained that inclusion zone laws, which would have required building affordable units in each new development, didn’t exist in 2017 when the agreement was first approved, necessitating an amendment Monday.
The zoning laws were passed earlier this year and require that one-fifth of all newly built downtown housing units must be affordable.
Caption: Ward 22 Alder Jeannette Morrison spoke for both property-related issues Monday night.
Also at the meeting
- alder gummed a Suggestion to fill a handful of senior positions entitled to high salaries and pensions in hopes of encouraging city employee retention.
- “This will allow the administration to hire new employees for these positions at salaries that are more appropriate to their experience and more competitive compared to other municipalities in the state and region,” said Adam Marchand, finance committee chair.
- Alders plans to continue reviewing the contracts granted by the Board of Education after BOE member Darnell Goldson raised concerns about a lack of competition in the current bidding process.
- “During my tenure on the board, I’ve seen the process become a lot less competitive, particularly in bus service, where every time a company gets the contract because it’s the only company that fits the city’s parameters,” Goldson told the News . “More attention to such contracts will help ensure the process is fair.”