City to apply for HOPE VI grants again

The New Haven Housing Authority will take another crack — or perhaps two — at the elusive HOPE VI revitalization grant.

If the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development does not restrict each city to one application, the Housing Authority intends to apply for HOPE VI grants for both the West Rock and Quinnipiac Terrace housing developments. HUD rejected New Haven’s 2001 application for a grant for West Rock in November, despite the assistance of a prominent consulting firm.

“Depending upon whether there is a limit or not, we intend to apply for two HOPE VI grants,” said Robert Solomon, the authority’s interim executive director.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced the plans for the applications at his State of the City address on Feb. 5.

Solomon said he expects to hear about HUD’s requirements for the applications by the end of March. The deadline for applications would be May.

“They seem to be a little bit behind schedule this year,” Solomon said.

The West Rock complex lies in the northwest corner of New Haven, and Quinnipiac Terrace is on the Quinnipiac River in the Fair Haven neighborhood. As many as 1,000 housing units could potentially occupy both sites.

New Haven last received a HOPE VI grant in 1993, the first year of the federal program. At the time, the HUD allotments totaled $45 million, and New Haven continues to use the funds to redevelop the Monterey Place housing complex.

HOPE VI grants were as large as $35 million this past year, and several cities received multiple grants, including Chicago and Philadelphia. Only 15 grants were awarded in 2001.

The developing team that compiled New Haven’s application last year included Telesis of Connecticut, which has submitted 10 of 12 successful HOPE VI revitalization grants nationwide. Telesis’ only two rejections came in New Haven. The Housing Authority terminated its contract with the developing team in late November.

Solomon said he did not know whether New Haven would hire another outside consulting firm to assist with this year’s application.

Since Solomon became interim executive director in 1999, the Housing Authority has undergone a 180-degree turnaround. On HUD’s most recent annual housing authority assessment, New Haven scored 80 out of 100, finally cracking the “B” range after earning a 33 just four years ago. Solomon also helped New Haven acquire HUD’s “Moving to Work” status in October. The designation, offered to just 32 housing agencies nationwide, allows the authority to pool all funds together into one account.

But New Haven has yet to snag the HOPE VI grant under Solomon’s leadership. Solomon announced in late November that he will leave the authority this June. His replacement, Steve Yandle, has been involved in previous New Haven HOPE VI applications as the authority’s commissioner.

But Solomon said the HOPE VI grants are an important piece of the rejuvenation of New Haven’s public housing and hopes to provide the framework for the first New Haven HOPE VI grant in nine years before his departure.

“It’s something we definitely need in order to go ahead with these projects the way we want to,” Solomon said.

The Authority began assembling master plans for the revitalization of both West Rock and Quinnipiac Terrace at the beginning of this year. The Authority’s implementation committee decided in late January that New Haven would again seek HOPE VI funds.

“We deserve it, and hopefully this time we’ll get it,” Solomon said.

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