SALISBURY — One town resident has initiated an effort to create more affordable housing. She has created a petition to develop the proposed building site at Holley Place — at Lakeville Village Center on Main Street — for her plan.
The petition, “Young People Support Affordable Housing in Salisbury,” on Change.org has garnered about 400 signatures in three weeks.
“There’s no way I would be able to afford living here if I wasn’t living with my parents,” said town resident Carrie Babigian, 22, who created the petition. Babigian graduated last May from Oberlin College in Ohio.
Town resident Hannah Pouler, also 22, said the demand for affordable housing in town “is in no way being met.” Pouler, a senior at Princeton University in New Jersey, plans to live in Manhattan when she graduates. Moving back to Salisbury “was never an option,” she said.
“This affects every young person in the surrounding commutable area,” Pouler added, referring to the initiative.
According to the 2018 Town of Salisbury Affordable Housing Plan, Salisbury needs more affordable housing for several reasons, including that incomes have not kept pace with housing costs and the lack of multi-unit housing in town.
The Holley Place project idea has been discussed in town since 2018. Since that time, the proposed design and size of the building has been changed. According to the new plan, Holley Place would have 12 units that would be affordable to households at 80 percent AMI (area median income) or less. The owner would be the Salisbury Housing Committee, a nonprofit organization that owns and manages 33 affordable housing units in Salisbury. There would be 22 onsite parking spaces.
The SHC has a pre-development loan for the cost of the project of $257,000, from the Connecticut Department of Housing.
At a Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission Special Meeting this month, Jocelyn Ayer, vice president of SHC, said the Holley Place space “is a parking lot with a green space that’s not very big, and a broken bench and six trees.”
Additionally, she said affordable housing costs 30 percent or less of the income of a household earning 80 percent of the area median income. She added that 1.62 percent of Salisbury's housing stock is affordable, according to the State's Affordable Housing Appeals listing.
There are 42 households on waiting lists for the town’s two affordable housing properties — Sarum Village and Faith House. According to Ayer, there is no other affordable rental housing in town except six units at Lakeview Apartments and some homes for sale developed by the Salisbury Housing Trust.
At the meeting, which was held over Zoom and watched by nearly 160 people, some residents expressed opposition to the idea of developing the Holley Place space. Town resident Van Deusen said he’s disturbed about destroying Centennial Park and its trees.
Van Deusen also commented about parking, saying when he was recently at the site, eight cars were parked there and was wondering where they’ll park in the future. Additionally, he said the site is in a “very dangerous spot. Coming down Route 44, there’s a curve in the road there and it’s all downhill, and some day a trailer truck is going to slide on a slippery road and hit the building.”
At the meeting, another resident, Helen Ross, said she “takes issue” with the petition Pouler sent around on Facebook, saying “Holley Place is necessary to bring a sense of liveliness to a somewhat passed-over part of Lakeville.”
“Honestly, the people who live in this part of Lakeville do not feel like it’s a passed over park,” Ross said. “People who have moved here or have grown up here and stayed are here before of the beauty that makes our town unique. Part of this beauty is open spaces.”
The housing committee has submitted an application to the town’s Zoning Committee for a special permit, and a public hearing is scheduled for March 8.
According to Ayer, if the special permit is approved, the housing committee would apply for the funding to construct Holley Place.
Pouler said her favorite part about growing up in Salisbury is it “was just a really great place to be a kid because there was so many kids around. After school every day, we would ride our bikes around and climb trees. It was a really idyllic country living lifestyle that I would wish on any child. The sad thing is as these young families and these young people are being priced out of this neighborhood, that will disappear.”
She said her fear is the town will become “just be a retirement home, a place that gets really crowded on weekends” with people from out of town, and the town won’t be the same. I really hope 10, 20 years from now, if I move back, it will still have that charm and that youthfulness and that kind of exciting feeling where you’re excited to be a kid.”