SALISBURY — The results are in from a recent study on affordable housing in Salisbury and the numbers are daunting.
As of 2007, only 1.9 percent of Salisbury’s housing units constitute affordable housing, as defined by state and federal criteria, according to a report released by an independent task force assembled at the request of the Board of Selectmen last year.
Salisbury residents Bob Blank, Carole Dmytryshak, David Olsen and Anthony Scoville were on hand at the board’s regular meeting on Monday to present the thick volume that was the product of hours of research and scores of interviews. The panel determined that the town needs an additional 200 units to "maintain the diverse population Salisbury enjoys today."
Among the group’s findings are estimates of need in four specific categories of affordable housing:
• Middle-income working families and individuals earning between $30,000 and $90,000: 36 units annually
• Young families and individuals starting out in their 20s: 8 to 15 units annually
• Seniors ages 65 and over: 10 to 32 units annually
• Low-income families and individuals earning less than $30,000 (mostly rentals): 6 to 10 units annually.
The achievement of that goal would represent an increase of approximately 8.4 percent in Salisbury’s total housing stock, a challenge the task force believes is "ambitious but realistically achievable if the citizens of Salisbury really desire to maintain a diverse and vibrant community for inhabitants of all ages and incomes."
While the 2007 median sale price of a single-family house in Salisbury was $500,000, for the decade from 1991 through 2001 the median price of a single-family house in Salisbury never rose above $240,000 and was often below $200,000, according to the report.
"During the boom of 2002-07, there was a whole group of people who were priced out of the market," Scoville told the selectmen. "You have a large group that swings in and out of affordability."
Last year the median sales price of a home in Salisbury was half a million dollars — more than 225 percent of the price for a house deemed supportable, according to bank mortgage standards, by a household with Salisbury’s median income of $64,700. Salisbury’s situation "is merely an extreme reflection of the general lack of middle-income housing throughout most of Connecticut," the report said.
Members of the panel interviewed dozens of business owners and heads of volunteer agencies. Most said they were adequately staffed at this time, but all were concerned about the dwindling labor force. Enrollment at the Region One schools is predicted to decline by 10 percent over the next 10 years.
Selectman Bob Riva was on the Salisbury Board of Education until last year and has a son who recently served in the Marines but cannot afford to live in the town.
"I was eight years on the Board of Education," Riva said. "You could just see the families leaving town. It’s frustrating."
There are at least two groups working on building affordable housing in the town, including the Salisbury Housing Trust and Habitat For Humanity for Northwest Connecticut. The town has two public housing developments, Sarum Village and Faith House. But those organizations cannot keep up with the demand, the panel agreed.
As for rental units, the town’s zoning laws discourage multi-unit apartment buildings. Currently, the code limits even large houses to three apartments apiece, for example. Potential investors could be dissuaded from buying large homes and turning them into affordable rentals.
Selectman Jim Dresser, a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, suggested the commission might look into altering that regulation.
First Selectman Curtis Rand thanked the task force for its work and suggested the selectmen digest the report and discuss it further at its next meeting, Sept. 2. Copies of the report are available at Town Hall and at the Scoville Memorial Library. There are also plans to post the report on the town’s Web site.