When Elm City Congregations Organized (ECCO) surveyed churchgoers several years ago, 430 people expressed interest in buying affordable housing. ECCO — an alliance of churches and other religious institutions in New Haven — resolved to take action.
After two-and-a-half years of planning, ECCO will begin building 66 double-unit apartments on the Quinnipiac River in Fair Haven this January, in conjunction with developer Galileo Works Inc. and architecture firm Goody Clancy. Each 2,280-square-foot apartment will include two dwelling units, one intended for the owner to rent out, said Sam Dexter, an associate minister at the Church of the Redeemer. Dexter said this system accommodates more people and makes homeownership more affordable.
Patt Spear, coordinator of the housing program for ECCO, said the project is designed to fill a need for lower-cost housing in New Haven.
“We’re going to build housing that is quality, affordable,” Spear said. “We’re going to do it on time, we’re going to do it on budget, and we will [fill apartments with] organized homeowners and renters.”
Home-seekers can apply for spots until early January, when ECCO will hold a lottery to determine the order in which applications are viewed, Dexter said. He said preference will be given to residents of public housing and low-income buyers, especially people with an annual income between $20,000 and $54,000.
Spear said ECCO is spreading word of the complex through television advertisements, word of mouth, churches and community organizations.
“[This project] is only the beginning of a long-term goal on ECCO’s part to build 400 units over the next five years in the city and the suburbs,” Spear said.
ECCO has hired Galileo Works, a development and construction works group that helped construct affordable housing complexes in New York City’s South Bronx.
“We are bringing the same model of affordable housing that [Galileo] used in South Bronx on a larger scale to New Haven,” Dexter said.
Dexter said Goody Clancy, the Boston-based architecture firm working on the project, is doing a great job.
“The architects have designed homes that really catch the vernacular architecture of Fair Haven,” Dexter said.
Dexter added that the first apartments will become available in early summer, but the entire project will take one-and-a-half years to complete.
Trinity Financial Corporation will build 144 additional rental apartment units on the same Quinnipiac River site. Dexter estimated that all 200 apartments will cost $85 million, which includes a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and money from the State Department of Economic and Community Development, the City of New Haven, private organizations and churches.
Rev. Lillian Daniel, senior minister at Church of the Redeemer who serves as co-chairwoman of ECCO, said the organization has dreamed for years about building affordable housing.
“There’s no question that New Haven is gentrifying and that Fair Haven is gentrifying,” Daniel said. “As people of faith we don’t want to see the working poor get pushed out of that.”
But Rev. Daniel said the project will do more than create affordable housing units.
“By building homes, we’ll be introduced to a new group of people,” Daniel said. “We’ll develop new community leaders.”
Dexter said responses to the proposed development have been favorable so far.
“There’s been quite a lot of interest,” Dexter said. “People are excited to be able to buy new construction two-family homes near the water at an affordable price.”