EDC Hears of Housing Shortage for Workers

No town or city in Litchfield County currently has an adequate stock of affordable housing, Jocelyn Ayer, director of the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity, told Norfolk Economic Development Commission members. Speaking at the commission’s April 11 meeting to discuss surveys of housing availability, she reported that, at present, 94 or more workers travel 45 minutes or more to get to their Norfolk jobs.

Noting that the EDC’s function is to promote business growth, Kate Briggs Johnson, president of the Foundation for Norfolk Housing, said it would be fundamental to know what percentage of people living in the town’s affordable housing work in Norfolk. The foundation has already created 12 affordable housing units and is in the process of building 10 new homes.

While Norfolk does not have as large a retail center as some communities, it was observed that many residents are self-employed and operate service businesses from their homes.

“Employers have been pretty outspoken about their inability to find and sustain a workforce,” said EDC co-chairman Michael Selleck.

“It won’t hurt to ask questions of employers and I think it would be great to hear from people who work in town as to whether they have housing,” said Ayer, “A significant number of people who live in town can’t afford to live in town. They are severely cost-burdened in situations that are not sustainable over time.”

The paucity of affordable housing in Norfolk was underscored by Lauren Valentino, principal of Botelle School, who said there have been families who wanted their children to attend the elementary school but could not find housing they could afford. Botelle has 59 students in six grades and there has been concern among town leaders about the low enrollment, as well as about young volunteers not coming into the ambulance squad and fire department.

There was lengthy discussion about what kind of a housing survey would be appropriate for Norfolk. No decision was reached but the EDC will pursue. 

In other business, the EDC members agreed to write a letter supporting the Norfolk Foundation’s application for a $460,000 grant to install an elevator in the Royal Arcanum building. The elevator would make the apartments on the second-floor handicap accessible.

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