© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vernon town leaders tout success in meeting CT's affordable housing goals

Congressman Joe Courtney spoke about the importance of housing authorities in boosting affordable housing with Vernon Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy Soto in one of the ADA accessible units under renovation at the Grove Court affordable housing complex in Vernon Connecticut, May 20, 2024.
Abigail Brone
/
Connecticut Public
Congressman Joe Courtney spoke about the importance of housing authorities in boosting affordable housing with Vernon Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy Soto in one of the ADA accessible units under renovation at the Grove Court affordable housing complex in Vernon Connecticut, May 20, 2024.

Housing advocates say community involvement plays a key role in tackling the affordable housing crisis, but few towns are at the level of affordability required by the state.

Vernon is one of the few Connecticut towns that has met the state’s affordable housing requirement, which calls for towns and cities to make at least 10% of housing units in their community affordable, according to state housing data.

Of Vernon’s roughly 16,000 housing units, about 2,500 are designated affordable, coming in at about 16% affordable, according to town officials.

More than 300 of those affordable housing units are operated by the town’s housing authority.

Vernon’s high rate of affordable housing is intentional, Town Administrator Michael Purcaro said.

“We want to draw people to Vernon and this draws people in. We don't necessarily like the terminology ‘affordable housing,’ we'd like to say, ‘We're open for business,’” Purcaro said. “Vernon's a great place to work, live and play. We want to draw people here. We want people to open their businesses here.”

There’s room for improvement, according to Shaun Gately, Vernon’s director of Development Services. The town is working to better accommodate residents who don’t qualify for affordable housing and can’t keep up with market rate rent, Gately said.

“We’re still focused on that missing middle as well. Because, we have some deed restricted low-income housing, we have market rate housing, and then we have housing for the people that are the workforce housing,” Gately said.

The town’s manufacturing history paved the way for a diverse community, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said. It’s partially due to a strong local housing authority, which recently received millions of dollars in federal support.

“It's what makes the town so interesting is, it's just got a much more sort of diverse mixture of income and people from different walks of life, it means it has a healthier labor market,” Courtney said. “People can afford to live here who work here too, and that's where I think a lot of communities that have not met that 10% are starting to confront that reality, that they can't find people to teach your police department or go work in restaurants.”

Vernon’s housing authority recently received millions in federal dollars to upgrade and increase affordable apartments, including $1.3 million to fully renovate Grove Court, which provides affordable housing for elderly and disabled residents.

An additional $618,000 in federal funding will go toward general upgrades across the authority’s properties.

Local housing authorities do the best with what’s provided, Betsy Soto, Vernon Housing Authority’s executive director, said.

“It's vital for the next 30-plus years, that any monies that go into these properties, that we can get enough to sustain it, to keep sustaining the property so that we can continue to provide these types of services to the people,” Soto said.

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.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content