Ferry Crossing: State Policy and Local Initiatives Expand Affordable Housing Options

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Located in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Ferry Crossing is a townhouse project with 16 affordable rental units. A joint venture between two nonprofits, Ferry Crossing was the first affordable housing development completed under the state’s Housing for Economic Growth program.

Connecticut’s overall housing costs have been among the highest in the nation for both renters and owners. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a renter would need to earn about $25 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the state. The actual mean wage in the Old Saybrook area was $12.65 an hour in 2016.

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Old Saybrook is an affluent shoreline community of approximately 10,000, located in Middlesex County, on the west side of the Connecticut River. There is a local need for more affordable homes closer to town center, services, and transit connections. Seventy percent of renters and 38 percent of homeowners currently spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The local effort started when area citizens sought to engage the broader community around the lack of housing for lower-income residents.

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Ferry Crossing was developed under a partnership between the Town of Old Saybrook, local nonprofit HOPE Partnership, and regional nonprofit Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development (WIHED).   The state’s Housing Connections of Connecticut program also helped with capacity-building, guiding HOPE Partnership to team with WIHED to produce Ferry Crossing.

The Town of Old Saybrook donated the land to HOPE Partnership. The project construction was financed with a $1 million loan through Liberty Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston and a $2.9 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Liberty Bank also supported construction and permanent financing through a $600,000 advance subsidized by the FHLB’s Affordable Housing Program.

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The State of Connecticut’s Housing for Economic Growth (often referred to as the Incentive Housing Zone (IHZ) program) started in 2007 to support towns that were proactively seeking to diversify their housing options and support the density that makes mixed-income and affordable housing development financially feasible.

To further support the state’s housing needs, in 2012 the Connecticut state legislature authorized a new Department of Housing (DOH) to serve as the lead agency for all housing initiatives in the state.

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Now implemented by the DOH, the IHZ program provides pre-development grants to municipalities to engage in local planning and revise their zoning to include IHZ overlays. Ferry Crossing is the first IHZ project completed in the state.

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Point One Architects designed Ferry Crossing’s 16 townhouse-style apartments, spread across five buildings, to be compatible with the New England architectural style commonly found along Connecticut’s shoreline. The apartments include 4 one-bedroom units, 8 two-bedroom units, and 4 three-bedroom units that are affordable to households between 25 percent to 80 percent of area median income. Four units are targeted to families who are homeless and two units are reserved for veterans. The success of the project has solidified the town’s commitment to proactively develop affordable housing in future projects.

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