“We kind of held the place together for a long time with duct tape and bubble gum,” said Doug Denes, who served on the board of the Branford Housing Authority for more than two decades, including as chairman, until 2019.
Attempts over the past nine years to raze and replace the three deteriorating buildings have all failed, however, because of local opposition to the housing authority’s plan to lift the age restriction for the complex. Instead of housing 39 older residents, the new complex would accommodate 126 people of all ages, including families.
Some residents and elected officials in Branford, an affluent shoreline town near New Haven, have reacted with hostility to the plan, saying it would spoil the character of the community and attract undesirable people.
“The drug addicts are going to be here, believe me,” William Woermer, of Branford, testified before the board in November 2017. “Retirees, disabled, old people — I have no objection to renovate the whole place and make it nice for them. But don’t get too much of that riffraff in. There will be a lot of riffraff. … With a project like this, you need security guards in the area.”
Woermer was hardly alone in his opposition.
Town officials have spent years attempting to convince the courts to stop the project and have been ordered twice to allow it to be built, while a group of Republicans on the town council wrote the town’s zoning board in 2017 urging them to vote it down, saying they had “concerns about whether this expanded and new use is consistent with the neighborhood and character of this small part of Branford.”
This chorus of opposition against affordable housing that isn’t age-restricted raises a larger question for Branford and other affluent Connecticut towns: Is this discrimination?
No children allowed. Are wealthy CT towns building elderly housing to keep out poor families?, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Mirror, June 20, 2021, available here