Easton must do more for affordable housing

I have been a resident of Easton for 44 years with my wife and two children. My children received a wonderful education from Easton’s schools, made many lifetime friends, and their experiences in Easton built a great foundation for their course in life. My comments herein are made with a background of appreciation for the benefits my family has enjoyed as citizens of Easton. Having said that, I suggest there is room for improvement for the town.

I wrote a letter to the editor some 40 years ago, as an Easton citizen, suggesting that our zoning laws and our wetlands and conservation are too restrictive, make home ownership too expensive, and the end result is de facto discrimination, whether intended or not.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Our land-use plan does not allow for a planned use development, does not assist the creation of affordable housing, does not create a tax base to control our spiraling real estate taxes, and continues to prevent the integration of our town.

The state recommendation on affordable housing is for 10 percent of the housing stock; Easton has less than 1 percent. It is because of restrictive land use planning, exactly like in Easton, that the state passed its Affordable Housing Act. Easton fails to do its fair share to provide affordable housing.

Gov. Lamont recently said “Affordable housing today is more of a priority than it has ever been.” Connecticut has an affordable housing crisis. Author Andrea Elliot won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for her book “Invisible Child.” She writes that although housing is a big part of the American dream, the lack of affordable housing in the United States is the main cause of homelessness for children. She further found that the lack of affordable housing is due to systemic racism.

The argument that affordable housing will damage our groundwater may be considered by some to be a pretextual argument to preclude low and/or moderate-income individuals from moving into town. Certainly, affordable housing in a planned unit development in southern Easton, below the watershed, cannot reasonably be argued threatens the groundwater. The new Staples Elementary School has a community type sewage disposal system in the watershed and it does not threaten the groundwater.

I do not believe that the citizens of Easton are intentionally discriminatory. However, Easton’s zoning and conservation plans essentially prohibit, in fact if not in words, the creation of affordable housing in Easton.

We need to do better; we need to do the right thing. The right thing is to reasonably attempt to meet the goals of the state’s Affordable Housing Act; the right thing is to allow affordable housing projects that do not adversely impact the environment in a meaningful way; the right thing is to allow community septic systems that are generally accepted by other similar communities.

I was pleased to see that the Board of Selectman of Easton (not by town vote) recently submitted an affordable housing plan to the state as mandated by law. However, it remains to be seen as to whether or not the plan is implemented. Submitting a plan and executing a plan are two different things.

I firmly believe that the silent majority of Easton residents are in favor of reasonable measures to allow for the development of affordable housing in Easton. It is time for this silent majority to vote and be heard.

Harold L. Rosnick


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