Alders Approve Expanding Tax Abatement to Include Multi-Purpose Housing
At their Monday meeting, the Board of Alders increased the supply of affordable housing in the town through incentives. The change comes after an inclusive zoning law was passed earlier this year.
Yash Roy, collaborating photographer
New Haven will modify its half-century-old tax abatement program in hopes of spurring new “mixed-income” developments that will offer a mix of affordable and market-priced housing.
The Board of Alders on Monday passed an amendment to the city’s tax assessment deferral program, which previously allowed buildings with only market-priced or affordable housing to qualify under a reduction program.
Alders has also approved a development on Dixwell Avenue with one affordable unit and four market rate units that will be eligible for this new discount scheme. Both were sponsored by Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison.
“Today there is only one affordable unit, tomorrow we will have 100,” Morrison said. “We will ensure residents have the opportunity to stay in their communities, and developers are incentivized to ensure their market rate is also protected.”
The Assessment Deferral Program was originally created in 1975 and allows developers who increase property value by 35% to freeze property taxes and pay them over a period of five years.
The program originally targeted market-rate developments without affordable units, as affordable housing has its own reduction program – the Low-Income Supportive Housing Tax Agreement (LISHTA). Under previous ordinances, only one building in the entire city was eligible for one of these programs.
However, with the city’s recent enactment of an all-inclusive zoning ordinance that requires 20% of housing to be affordable, the reduction program has become harder to use, Morrison said.
One example — a catalyst for Monday night’s action — is the new five-story, 176-unit apartment at 176-186 Canal St and 291-309 Ashmun. Its developers hoped to claim the benefits of both discount programs.
Developers hope to include 59 affordable housing units; however, Deputy Director of Economic Development Steve Fontana informed Morrison in a letter Monday that the developers would not be able to do so without a change to the program.
“The developer came with inclusive zoning in mind,” Morrison said. “They were not eligible for the assessment deferral program because the language was archaic and this needs to be clarified.”
With Monday’s amendment, that program will now include mixed-use lots where a building could have both affordable and mixed-use housing.
This linguistic update falls within the policy objective of “quality affordable housing”, as stated in the council of alders most recent legislative program.
“We will ensure that residents have the opportunity to stay in their communities and that developers have an incentive to ensure their market rate is also protected,” Morrison said.
Dixwell Ave to see new construction, affordable housing
An abandoned city-owned garage on Dixwell Ave. is now set for a facelift after the owner of Brick Oven Pizza, who plans to build five apartments on the site, received official approval.
The new development plan that the city and the developer have agreed on includes five apartments, at least one of which will be affordable housing with rents accessible to a tenant who earns 60% of the area’s median income. This level of rent must be maintained for the next 20 years.
Morrison, who has represented the neighborhood for 11 years, says the city has been trying to sell the land since before he was elected, adding he’s thrilled to have the chance to allow its development.
Kadir Catalbasoglu, owner of Brick Oven Pizza and another housing complex at 59 Dixwell, tried to buy the land and develop it since 2017.
“I’m buying the property because it’s an eyesore right now and I want to develop it since I own the land right next to it,” Catalbasoglu told the News.
According to Morrison, the lot has been auctioned several times, but a problem has always prevented its sale.
The original deal that alders approved in 2017 would allow Catalbasoglu to convert the space into two apartments and a commercial building.
However, the owner of the land right next to 55 Dixwell, Yehoshua Rosenstein, for follow-up to prevent the deal, saying he owned part of the driveway that was in the lot. The lawsuit is now resolved.
Morrison explained that inclusive zoning laws, which would have required the construction of affordable units in any new development, did not exist in 2017 when the deal was first approved, necessitating Monday’s amendment.
Zoning laws were passed earlier this year and require one-fifth of all new residential units built downtown to be affordable.
Caption: Ward 22 Alder Jeannette Morrison spoke about the two property issues on Monday night.
Also at the meeting
- The alders stamped a proposal to bolster a handful of executive positions eligible for high salaries and pensions, in hopes of bolstering retention of city employees.
- “This will allow the administration to hire new employees for these positions at salaries more commensurate with their experience and more competitive with other municipalities in the state and region.” said finance committee chair Adam Marchand.
- Alders plans to take a closer look at the contracts awarded by the Board of Education after BOE member Darnell Goldson raised concerns about the lack of competition in the current bidding process.
- “During my tenure on the board, I’ve seen the process become much less competitive, especially on buses where one company is awarded the contract every time because it’s the only company that fits the parameters of the city,” Goldson told The News. “More attention to contracts like this will help ensure the process is fair.”