The Town of Bethlehem has written a new affordable housing plan, which state law requires that cities and towns do. The draft plan takes a close look at the small, rural town’s housing stock and identifies strategies to developing more diverse, affordable options but also some of the challenges. About two percent of the homes in Bethlehem meet the statutory definition of affordable and the plan recognizes that the town needs more.
In the United States, if a household pays more than 30 % of its gross income on housing, it is considered cost-burdened and may not be able to afford transportation, food, clothing, medical care and other necessities. From reading the report, it seems that quite a few of Bethlehem’s residents face this difficult situation. One of the report’s findings is that 21 percent of the single-family homeowners in Bethlehem have mortgage costs and taxes that exceed 30 percent of their income. Bethlehem has 159 households that rent their home, and 59 percent of them pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.
The affordable housing plan identifies some potential strategies that are in line with the preponderance of single-family homes and lack of municipal services in Bethlehem. Those include focusing on affordable homeownership, maintaining and rehabilitating existing housing, and building accessory dwelling units.
Some of the challenges to increasing how much affordable housing there is in Bethlehem are also identified in the plan. The town surveyed residents and found that 45 % of the respondents supported having more affordable housing in town while 40 % opposed it. When asked if a moderate increase in how many apartments, duplexes or triplexes are in town would hurt or help Bethlehem, 57.8 % of the respondents said that it would negatively impact the community. A similar number said that increasing the overall number of housing units would also negatively impact the community.
The town has posted the plan on its website so that residents can review it and may hold a hearing to take comments. Bethlehem is a member of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.