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Greenwich seeks ways to bolster affordable housing trust fund

A construction worker carries a sawhorse in front of a building being renovated in the Colonial Village public housing complex in Norwalk.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Greenwich has created a trust fund to help finance affordable housing projects akin to Colonial Village in Norwalk (above). "We could use our affordable housing trust fund to...influence what gets built, where it gets built, how it gets built, who lives in it, and do so to meet the particular needs of our community," said fund chair Bob Barolak.

The concept of affordable housing trust funds is fairly new in Connecticut, but several Fairfield County communities have adopted the method for constructing more affordable housing.

In Greenwich, the affordable housing trust fund was established in 2021 and given $650,000 in starter funding from the town’s COVID-19 relief money.

Two years on, the fund has received $40,000 in donations and is looking to boost funding and its townwide presence.

It is uncommon for a trust fund to operate solely on donations, and fund is exploring other ways to gain funds.

One of the ideas to increase funding includes allowing developers to contribute to the trust, trust chair Bob Barolak said.

“If a community embraces affordable housing as one of its goals, the funding of it should be a community obligation,” Barolak said. “I have spent my entire career in owning, operating affordable housing. I've encountered hundreds of analogues to our trust fund, and not one of them ever was funded solely with donations.”

The trust doesn't own or operate any buildings. Its goal is to provide a portion of funding for specific projects that incorporate affordability. No funds have yet been distributed from the trust for any projects.

“We could use our affordable housing trust fund to not only encourage affordable housing construction, but influence what gets built, where it gets built, how it gets built, who lives in it, and do so to meet the particular needs of our community,” Barolak said.

Barolak said many residents are unaware of the fact the trust exists. The town held a public forum in September to increase awareness and educate residents on how the fund operates and its purpose.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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