Touring four new Fair Haven houses on Friday, local administrators and federal officials praised New Haven’s recent efforts to increase homeownership and renew neighborhoods.
Built with New Haven funds, the houses on Pardee Street have been sold to four families at subsidized prices. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development attended the open house ceremony.
Henry Fernandez, New Haven’s economic development administrator, said New Haven can feel proud to sponsor such programs under current economic conditions.
“We’re going through a tremendous budget crunch on the state side that has a significant effect on New Haven, which is otherwise doing quite well,” Fernandez said. “[This is] by far the most aggressive homeownership program in the state.”
Julie Fagan, representing HUD, said homeownership is one of the greatest assets of any community.
“It brings stability to neighborhoods, stability to households,” Fagan said. “We know there is a higher high school graduation rate among homeowners than among renters.”
The four colonial-style homes, which cost almost $600,000 for the city to build, were sold for a total of $470,000 to the buyers. New Haven obtained the real estate through tax foreclosures in 1999 and 2000, and when the weather gets warmer, work will begin for a fifth house on a nearby vacant lot.
Architect Bob Wilson said he was instructed to design the houses with budget as a primary consideration.
“My goal was to try to make as much livability out of these houses as possible,” Wilson said. “We wanted high-quality housing for working families.”
Ward 13 Alderwoman Rosa Santana said she expected Pardee Street to experience growth as a result of the new initiative, adding that many Pardee Street residents feel their street has been left by the wayside.
Fernandez said this sort of project, while new, is a positive step for the city administration to take.
“We have a real, increased focus on homeownership, which we haven’t had for 20 years,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said the homes were built through the city’s Livable City Initiative, a move that allowed the city to conduct the project at a lower cost than in previous years.
“Historically, we’ve done a lot of projects through developers,” he said. “[Here], the city ran the project without any intermediaries. And it’s in a location that helps to stabilize the whole street.”
Despite the success of this project, it remains vital for the United States to focus on the historical inequities and “glaring gaps” in housing across the nation, including a dichotomy in affordability of housing between urban and suburban areas, Fagan said. Still, she said, housing remains one of the nation’s most promising economic resources — another reason this Fair Haven project is important.
“When the stock market fell, it was housing that held this economy together,” Fagan said.
Fernandez, who lives near the new housing project on East Pearl Street, said the new housing initiative will benefit the whole Fair Haven community.
“It’s important not only in what it does economically for a city, but because homeowners are the backbone of a neighborhood,” Fernandez said.