In spite of initial community resistance, the Housing Authority of New Haven received approval to apply for a $2 million federal grant to fund the development of the Dwight neighborhood, located just a half-mile away from campus.
The application for the federal grant, supplied by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, required a letter of support from the Dwight Central Management Team, the organization that manages community life in the Dwight neighborhood. But at a Feb. 2 meeting of the DCMT, community members voted against HANH’s grant proposal due to concerns with the integrity and management skills of the housing company HANH planned to partner with. After a concerted effort to win over the community, HANH received a letter of support from the DCMT in time for the grant’s Feb. 9 deadline.
“We felt, at that point, that we had to show the city that we’re not trying to be obstructionist,” said Kate Walton, a 36-year Dwight neighborhood resident and DCMT member.
The DCMT initially rejected HANH’s proposal because the authority had plans to partner with The Community Builders, a development organization that already owns multiple apartments in the Dwight neighborhood.
These properties, however, have given the neighborhood “notoriety” for poor quality and being a hotbed for crime, West River Neighborhood Services Corporation President Stacy Spell said.
“[The Community Builders’] property is poorly managed,” Spell said. “It has been the subject in the past of violence. It is looked on as a location that supports criminal activity.”
Statistics supplied by Walton state that 286 crimes have occurred at one of The Community Builders’ properties in the past four years. In that same timespan, two other properties of The Community Builders have hosted 265 and 189 crimes respectively.
HANH could not be reached for comment and The Community Builders did not return requests for comment.
In the past, DCMT has confronted The Community Builders about the management of their properties. But the problems with the properties were never solved, Walton said.
“The Community Builders ends up saying, ‘Yes, we’re sorry that these problems are here, but now we’re going to do something about it,’” Walton said. “But then [The Community Builders] disappears.”
Community members were also frustrated that the HANH requested very little input from the Dwight neighborhood organizations while drafting the application for the grant. They expressed concerns that if the grant money were received, they would have little input in the actual development process.
Marcus Paca, vice president of the Greater Dwight Development Corporation — an independent group that works closely with the DCMT — noted that the grant application also failed to mention any of the recent accomplishments of the GDDC and DCMT, which include housing development projects, the purchase of commercial real estate and the development of a successful early-education program in Dwight neighborhood.
After the community’s negative response to the initial grant proposal, however, the HANH directly responded to their sentiments.
“The following day, the city basically made a huge effort to step in and try to actively, proactively address our concerns,” Walton said. “They assured us that they would both effectively rewrite the narrative and include as an asset the very successful work of the neighborhood group.”
The population of Dwight neighborhood is 5,339.