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    Monday, March 20, 2023

    Housing study: Groton will face significant housing demand over next decade

    Groton — A new housing market study projects that Groton will face "a significant unmet housing demand" over the next decade, with hiring at Electric Boat among the major drivers.

    Daniel Stevens, senior project manager at Camoin Associates, an economic development consulting firm based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., presented the study findings to the Town Council this week.

    The purpose of the study was to determine the amount and types of housing that the market can support being developed in town and if existing development projects will fully meet future demand, according to the presentation.

    Stevens pointed to an “underproduction of housing” in Groton over the past decade, with housing production not keeping up with the rest of the region.

    “The pace of housing development has been nearly 40% lower than what would have been necessary to maintain the Town’s same proportion of the regional housing supply,” according to the study.

    At the same time, Groton is expected to face an uptick in demand over the next 10 years or so, as Electric Boat ramps up hiring, among other factors.

    Potential demand over next decade

    Stevens said Groton’s housing market has the potential demand for about 5,260 new housing units over the next 10 years or so. “That is a big number. There is no disguising that, but that’s the nature of the magnitude of the housing demand and the unmet demand that’s expected.”

    Of that overall number, new Electric Boat workers are the largest component, and Groton could have a potential demand of 1,900 units from them, he said.

    “Continued hiring at General Dynamics Electric Boat will be a significant driver of housing demand over the next decade,” according to the study. “Over 2,000 new jobs will be added to the payroll in the Groton area over the next ten years and EB anticipates hiring 15,000 workers to meet that need and replace retiring workers (and other attrition).”

    The other potential demand comes from people wanting to upgrade to high-quality, modern apartments, as well as commuters, new workers in the region and people living in obsolete units, according to the study.

    Stevens said that even if all the units currently planned or proposed were built, which is often not the case, an opportunity for about 4,200 units would remain.

    According to the study, 60% of the demand is for rental units, and 40% is for single-family homes. With an aging population, there is a demand for senior housing.

    “The bottom line here is that there’s expected to be significant unmet housing demand,” Stevens said, adding that even on a regional basis, the pace of housing development is not projected to keep up with demand.

    “The demand is really that substantial that unless the pace of development picks up on a regional basis, we expect some of this demand to go unmet in the future,” he said.

    Market conditions favorable

    Stevens said overall, the study shows that the market conditions for housing are favorable.

    “The demand is there,” he said. “There’s evidence that the development community is interested in doing projects, and there are substantial community benefits that come with housing. It’s a very complicated question when it comes to the community coming together and having a vision for future housing but it’s important to consider these types of benefits.”

    He listed benefits including that housing is a critical issue for businesses, such as Electric Boat, that have concerns about being able to house the employees they want to recruit. He also said that housing helps maintain population, increase the tax base and spending at local businesses, and attract new and quality businesses to the community.

    Stevens said 82% of jobs in Groton are held by commuters, who then go home and spend most of their money in communities outside of Groton.

    Stevens said Groton’s population has trended downward from 2011 to 2021, with projections showing that trend will continue. He said while many factors are at play when it comes to population decline and growth, housing is one key component.

    While a projection shows population decline in the region from 2010 to 2040, the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has a different projection showing growth, which he said shows the potential for a more optimistic outlook.

    Housing questions, ideas

    Jon Reiner, town director of planning and development services, said Camoin worked with the town on the study over the past six months, which included interviewing real estate market experts within the local market area, looking at housing supply analysis, housing market trends analysis and competitive assessments and understanding the challenges to the market.

    In 2016, Camoin Associates had prepared an economic and market trends analysis for the town.

    Reiner said Groton has been getting a lot of questions about proposed housing development, such as how much is enough and is what is being proposed enough.

    With proposals to redevelop former school properties, Groton has been getting a lot of questions about how much housing the town really needs, he said.

    Several excess properties in Groton have been proposed as apartments, as Electric Boat moves to increase hiring and the town wants to draw more commuters to live in Groton.

    A proposal for apartments, as well as commercial space, at the Mystic Education Center drew opposition from residents concerned over its scale, among other concerns, and the Planning and Zoning Commission also objected to a development of its density. The town and the developer are negotiating over a dispute over each other's contractual obligations.

    Residents near the planned apartments at the William Seely School site, as well as residents near the proposed apartments at the Colonel Ledyard School site, also raised concerns such as traffic from those proposals.

    With 82% of jobs in town held by commuters, Reiner said the town also wanted to understand the housing market and types of housing within Groton.

    The town further sought to understand the housing demand, as it starts to think about how it may grow and develop over time, particularly as the town is due to start updating its Plan of Conservation and Development in the next year or two, he said.

    Town councilors raised questions and discussed the study at Tuesday’s Town Council Committee of the Whole meeting. They raised ideas and issues, such as an already high demand with people searching for apartments and not being able to find them, the need for transit-oriented development and for affordable and mixed-income housing, growth that is occurring not only at Electric Boat but also at the Navy, and how much housing and population growth the town can feasibly handle.

    Reiner pointed out that the study is about what the demand is, but the town would grow to what the zoning allows and what development happens. The town is wrapping up a study focused on affordable housing, which is expected to be presented to the Town Council in the next month or so, he said.


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