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Sarum Village expansion to receive $1.5M

SALISBURY — The construction of 10 new affordable housing rental units at the Sarum Village III Project on Cobble Road is one step, and $1.5 million, closer to breaking ground this summer.

The state of Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH) plans to request, on or about May 20, the release of federal HOME funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In making the May 5 announcement, DOH noted that federal funding “not to exceed” $1.5 million is earmarked toward the total project cost of the project, estimated at approximately $3,621,200. The housing is also funded through the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Hermia M. Delaire, DOH Certifying Officer, noted that the agency has determined that the project “will have no significant impact on the human environment,” and therefore an Environmental Impact Statement is not required.

Thrilled by the news

Salisbury housing advocates hailed the announcement this week as a long-awaited and much-needed shot in the arm toward increasing the town’s stock of affordable housing.

“This is great news. We’ve had the shovel ready for two years,” said Peter Halle, who heads the Salisbury Housing Committee, Inc. (SHC), a nonprofit organization which owns and manages 39 affordable housing units in town, including the Sarum Village complex at 34 Cobble Road.

“We have all the approvals from the town. This is the least controversial thing we could ever do,” he said of the project. “The only people who might have some objection are those who live [in the complex] next door and have to endure the construction.”

Currently, the Sarum Village complex comprises 24 rental units built over two phases. In 1987, the first 16 units were constructed, and in 2017, Sarum Village II added eight units. Once complete, the 10-unit Sarum Village III project will bring total rentals at the site to 34.

“It maxes out what we can have there,” said Halle. He estimated that once the federal funding is received, the project could break ground this summer and welcome occupants in about a year.

‘Long-awaited funding’

Jennifer Kronholm Clark, chair of the Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission, credited the Salisbury Housing Committee for its “great work” in getting the project’s third phase off the ground. “I’m thrilled to hear that this long-awaited funding is finally on its way. The Sarum III project will bring Salisbury desperately needed affordable rentals in a lovely residential neighborhood.”

According to an Affordable Housing Inventory list compiled by the Northwestern Connecticut Regional Housing Council and updated in February, Salisbury currently has 40 affordable housing units, 39 of which are owned by Salisbury Housing Committee.

They include Sarum Village (16 units); Sarum Village II (eight units); Faith House at 30 Fowler St. (nine units) and Lakeview Apartments at 32 Millerton Road (six units). In addition, the Town of Salisbury owns one rental unit at 25 Academy St.

“Obviously, anytime any of these projects gets funding it’s good news,” said Jocelyn Ayer, director of the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity (LCCHO) and a volunteer board member of the Salisbury Housing Committee.

A ‘dent’ in the larger goal

Salisbury’s 2018 Affordable Housing Plan, said Ayer, set a goal of adding 75 new units over the next 10-year period to the town’s housing stock. “This will make a little dent in meeting that goal.”

Ayer said LCCHO has a “whole pipeline” of developed housing that it hopes to get constructed over the next four years in Litchfield County, amounting to more than 150 units that would be affordable to households at 80 percent of the area median income or less.

“What we need are resources like what the Connecticut Department of Housing is making available for Sarum Village III,” said Ayer. “It means we will be able to get some households off that long waiting list.” Some people, she said, have been waiting up to five years to secure an affordable rental. “At some point, they just move somewhere else.”

Pointing to Sarum Village’s success over the last several decades, Halle said it is important to remind residents that there was fierce opposition when its first phase was unveiled back in the 1980s. “Not a lot of people remember that, and that’s one of the arguments we make now with Holley Place,” a controversial, 12-unit affordable housing project that has been discussed in town for the past four years and is currently tied up in litigation.

There was much greater opposition to Sarum Village when it was proposed and designed than there is today with Holley Place, Halle explained. “We like to give that example to people. Once it was built, there wasn’t a blot on the landscape at all.”

40 households on waiting lists

Even with the good news about federal funding for the third phase of Sarum Village, said Halle, there are about 40 households on waiting lists just for Sarum Village and Faith House. Halle said this underscores the need for the community to support other projects currently in the pipeline.

“Ten more units at Sarum Village does not diminish our affordable housing needs at Holley Place or Pope, or any other property. We need them all.”

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