Darien Old Town Hall Houses funding, relocation uncertain
DARIEN — Joseph Warren, interim chairman of the Darien Housing Authority, did not hide his frustration with state budget delays impeding the redevelopment of the Old Town Hall Houses, an affordable housing community for seniors.
“We’re in a hole not of our making,” he said at a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday evening. “We have all the necessary local approvals, planning and zoning applications, everything is ready to go.”
The project is expected to cost $22 million with funding from public and private sources. The Houses would be demolished to allow for a new three-story building with 53 units and elevators.
“How long are we going to have to wait to receive funding? Absolutely no idea,” Warren said.
Earlier in May, the financial breakdown included $13 million from private resources and $8 million from the state. The Darien Housing Authority is pairing up with JHM Financial Group to obtain the necessary funding. The town is kicking in an additional $360,000 to the project.
The redevelopment project is competing against other projects in the state for funding though Warren repeated that this is a particularly strong application as it pertains to housing for the elderly.
Senior citizens currently residing at the Homes would have to be relocated while construction efforts are underway, a thought that irritates residents and a process that could take up to several months, though a schedule won’t be finalized until the funding is obtained.
Wilma Sanford, an Old Town Hall House resident, was enjoying her 91st birthday on Tuesday relaxing by the door of her first-floor unit.
“It’s a matter of waiting and seeing what happens with the plans for redevelopment, everything is delayed all the time,” Sanford said. “The seniors in Darien are a little low on the totem pole to put it some way.”
A resident of Darien since 1952 who’s lived at the Houses for 15 years, Sanford pointed out some of the weaknesses of her residences though she emphasized that a relocation process would be even more burdensome.
“We should all have walk-in bathtubs, that’s where all the accidents happen. The stairs are bad for residents, especially when they come with groceries or when it’s icy. They’ll just have to come get me and pick me up to relocate me,” Sanford said.
A fellow resident, Carole Tyler, has been at the Houses for over 20 years. “We are very blessed to be here,” she said. “I don’t look forward to the move, a transition will be very unsettling and that period will be very difficult.”
“I can only go up one or two stairs,” the 79-year old said. “The residents will chat on the benches or when we’re doing laundry and we don’t know how they’re going to move us or how long we’ll be kept in the temporary housing.”
“If they renovated the individual units here with walk-in showers and ramps instead of stairs, we would be fine,” Tyler said.