New Haven residents may soon play a larger role promoting home ownership in their neighborhoods, as part of phase II of the Neighborhood Renewal Program, an initiative which creates housing opportunities for low-income families and encourages investors to enter the housing development market.
Serena Neal-Sanjurjo, executive director of the Livable City Initiative — a housing agency committed to growing grassroots participation in development that leads the NRP — briefed the city’s Community Development Committee Wednesday evening on how New Haven can use the $3 million state housing grant it applied for in October. Neal-Sanjurjo said the Connecticut Department of Housing grant will take the NRP, which began after a $1.5 million grant from the same state department, into a second phase of growth. She said the money will help the NRP promote home ownership in Newhallville, Dixwell, and West Rock.
“I believe [the program] will give the residents an opportunity to once again be involved and get some development from the development corporations. This is an excellent start to get the development corporations up and running in these three sections of New Haven,” Frank Douglass, Dwight alder and chair of the Community Development Committee, said.
Most of the phase II grant funds will subsidize workforce housing development and will facilitate development of neighborhoods with residents earning between 80 and 120 percent of the area’s median income, according to NRP’s official summary report. Funds will also go toward a building rehabilitation program to make homes more energy efficient and a workforce housing down payment assistance program to help working- and middle-class people become homeowners.
The Livable City Initiative hopes to work more closely with neighborhood groups in the second phase of the NRP.
“We’re trying to work with the management teams and with neighborhood groups to establish their priorities for home ownership,” Neal-Sanjurjo said. “There is a predominant number of rental units throughout the city. In order to really make any impact in those neighborhoods, we have to counteract this with affordable housing for home ownership.”
The Livable City Initiative has met with development corporations such as the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, an influential firm in the Dwight area. The GDDC consists of residents who liaise with their neighbors to determine the development goals their community shares.
The Hill-to-Downtown Community Plan — an initiative similar to the NRP — has seen a similar shift in focus toward community input. A recent amendment to the Hill-to-Downtown Community Plan involves the creation of a steering committee to represent neighborhood residents in a similar way to a development corporation.
“Many years ago, each neighborhood had [a development corporation],” Neal-Sanjurjo said. “They work. They’ve worked here in the past, and they work across the country every day.”
According to the October City Plan Commission Advisory Report, the AMI in the Newhallville/Dixwell, Hill, and West Rock areas is currently $83,400 for a family of four.