Affordable housing is top issue for New Milford mayoral candidate Hine: ‘Keep people in town’

Ted Hine, running for mayor of New Milford

Ted Hine, running for mayor of New Milford

Nikki Alekson /

NEW MILFORD — Creating more affordable housing in town is one of the top issues for lifelong resident Ted Hine, a Democrat, who is running for mayor against incumbent Pete Bass, a Republican.

Hine has worked on the affordable housing portion of the town’s Sustainable Connecticut initiative achieve Silver status. Currently, the town has Bronze status.

According to the Sustainable CT website, this is a voluntary, independently funded certification program to recognize “thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities.” Municipalities choose Sustainable CT actions, implement them, and earn points toward certification.

As towns take those steps, they can earn recognition as either a bronze or silver certified community.

Hine said the town’s housing authority has hired a consultant to put together an affordable housing plan.

“For the town to be sustainable into the future, we really need to embrace that plan and expand out the execution of it to the full scope,” he said.

He added he doesn’t think the town has the right “mixture” of housing stock — “from a rental perspective and also from families that are starting out — to have starter homes.”

Additionally, he said, if elected as mayor, he will encourage people to open businesses in town.

“We want new businesses to come to town but we need the people who work there to be able to find places to live in town,” he said.

He also said New Milford needs to take a “critical” look at its zoning regulations and adjust them to allow for affordable housing “so developers can come in and develop and build what we need.”

He said the housing trust that has been established in town towards affordable housing is a good start, but more needs to be done.

“There was $1,000 seed money put in the trust,” Hine said, adding this amount should be increased.

“The way the town council looked at it was they were only looking at it from a workforce affordable housing — They only want to offer the trust for workforce affordable housing, such as police officers and teachers.

But Hine said he would like to see the trust extended to more people.

“I call it a baby step,” he said. “For it to be effective, there has to be support year over year and we have to figure out how to build that trust up.” Hine said.

He added the funding for the trust doesn’t have to all come from the town and from the taxpayers. “There has to be a campaign from the housing authority to get philanthropists to donate to that trust fund as well,” he said.

He added the housing authority needs to “step up” and “start working on what zoning changes need to happen and start influencing where they can across the town to be able to make those changes, as well as figuring out how to fund the housing trust.”

Another part of achieving sufficient affordable housing pertains to the “aging population” in town, Hine added.

He said this population may have raised a family in town and now doesn’t need a three or four bedroom house.

“They’d rather downsize and not have to worry about (home maintenance tasks) such as mowing the lawn,” Hine said. “That’s another piece of housing stock that we don’t have. The prediction around our population is that we’re going to go right back into a declining population.”

He said as people get older, they want different options, and he thinks they are finding those options in other towns, rather than in New Milford.

“I would much rather keep people in town and service them with the right kind of housing stock,” he said.