Affordable housing in New Haven gets boost in fed funding

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NEW HAVEN — Sometimes public pressure works.

After a series of public hearings at which dozens of residents repeatedly stressed that housing — particularly the lack of affordable housing — is one of the city’s biggest problems, alders unanimously approved a plan to spend $53 million in federal pandemic aid that increases the amount going to housing programs by $4 million.

The $4 million is in addition to about $14 million that Mayor Justin Elicker initially had proposed to spend on housing programs when he submitted his recommendations for how to use Phase 3 of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funding in January.

The 21 members of the 30-member Board of Alders who attended Monday night’s regular meeting of the board all voted in favor of the changes, proposed by Finance Committee Chairman Alder Adam Marchand, D-25.

A unanimous vote on the total package followed.

“The net result of these changes is an increase in funding — up to a total of $18 million — for efforts aimed at addressing the housing crisis,” Marchand told his colleagues. “That matches the amount of funds allocated to programs that create positive pathways for youth, from greater funding for early childhood education to increased support for youth programming to new allocations to expand vocational education.

“These are the two areas of need that residents spoke most passionately about in the public hearings, and the amendment strengthens the city’s commitment of resources to those priorities,” Marchand said.

Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers, D-23, said after the vote that “we have to continue to put the communities of most need on the forefront.”

The $53 million the alders approved Monday night was the largest allocation so far of the $115.8 million in ARPA funds earmarked for New Haven.

The unanimously-approved amendment removed a total of $4.71 million from various lines in the plan’s “Wealth Creation & Economy” allocation and shifted it into other lines, including $710,000 to the “DECD Support CT Small Business 2022” line, which supports minority-owned businesses.

Of the remaining $4 million, $1 million went to the New Haven Land Bank allocation and $3 million was split among three lines in the administration’s “I’m Home Initiative” category, which supports housing and addresses what many have deemed the city’s housing crisis.

Specifically, the changes increased funding for the city’s Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance Program from $300,000 to $1 million, raised funding for the Homeownership Development Program from $4 million to $5 million, increased the Security Deposit Assistance Program funding from $1.7 million to $3 million. It also raised funding for the proposed land bank’s Portfolio Acquisitions fund from $2.24 million to $3.24 million.

The land bank, which does not yet exist, would be a quasi-public agency that would buy blighted and foreclosed properties, renovate them and then sell them to local residents at affordable prices so they could become homeowners.

The amended plan also requires the mayoral administration to work with alders selected by the president of the board “to develop an updated format for an ARPA report to be included in the monthly financial report and to specify additional criteria” to evaluate “the success of the programs and initiatives funded by this and other ARPA allocations.”

The administration is required to present the new reporting format and the additional evaluation criteria to the Finance Committee by its meeting in November, Marchand said.