NORTH STONINGTON — A proposed ordinance that would offer property owners tax abatements in exchange for providing housing for low or moderate income earners is under consideration in North Stonington.
It’s the work of the town’s Affordable Housing Committee. The Board of Selectmen got its first look at the proposal on Tuesday.
The draft ordinance is based on an almost identical one adopted by the town of Ledyard in 2012. The selectmen said they want to talk to Ledyard officials to learn how the ordinance has worked.
North Stonington voters at a town meeting would ultimately decide the fate of the proposal. Such a meeting is planned before the end of this year.
The selectmen also said they want the housing committee to develop a short presentation of the ordinance that’s easy for the public to grasp. “It’s a great idea, but it needs to be clarified and simplified,” Selectman Robert Carlson said.
First Selectman Mike Urgo agreed.
“We want it to be simple, not cumbersome,” he said.
Urgo said the town would offer deed-restricted tax abatements to property owners, and would not take ownership of any properties itself.
“The town is not looking to get into the affordable housing business,” he said.
Committee Chairwoman Margaret Leonard said the initial purpose of the ordinance was to make the town more attractive to builders of affordable housing by offering an incentive. But the committee also wanted to provide an option for current low- and moderate-income residents to stay in their homes, she said.
State statute defines both the properties that are eligible to be classified as affordable housing and residents who qualify as low- or moderate-income. Connecticut municipalities are supposed to have 10 percent of all housing units classified as affordable.
Currently, only 1.34 percent of the housing in North Stonington is classified as affordable, according to Mary Ann Ricker, a committee member. She is also the president of a new nonprofit group, Keeping North Stonington Affordable, which is working with the committee on these issues.
“By nailing down the formula and figuring this all out, we could potentially get to a 2 percent increase in our affordable housing inventory without having to build new houses,” Leonard said.
Not many municipalities have adopted such an ordinance, putting North Stonington at an advantage, Leonard said.
“It would put us at the forefront of the affordable housing initiative,” she said.