A group of New Haven alders has proposed a moratorium on the destruction and renovation of boarding room houses at Hotel Duncan, after it was revealed that the hotel’s new owners plan to turn the establishment into an upscale boutique hotel.
Hotel Duncan is one of the few remaining spaces in New Haven that house both single-room occupancy, or SRO, tenants and also operates as a hotel. SRO tenants pay rates between $170-240 per week to stay in the hotel. Under the proposed plan, Graduate Hotels, a division of AJ Capital, plans to renovate the space and transform it into a traditional hotel. The remaining tenants have received assistance from the new owners to find new housing and will gradually leave Hotel Duncan this month, according to the New Haven Independent. But alders are concerned about what the closing of another boarding house will mean for the future of low-income and transient residents of New Haven. Last Thursday, the Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 and four other alders introduced the amendment, which would halt any conversion or demolition of SRO units for six months.
“If we can avoid creating more homeless people don’t you think that’s a good thing?” said Dolores Colón ’91, Ward 6 alder and a supporter of the amendment. “I know this is America and capitalism rules, but we have to have heart for these people.”
Eidelson hosted a public forum last month about the impact of losing single-room occupancy homes. Residents could share concerns at the forum, and the Board of Alders has scheduled another public hearing for Nov. 30 to discuss the proposal. But Tim Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels, told the News that the company received a building permit from the city on Monday, meaning the moratorium may not affect the renovation. Franzen said he expects the renovations will proceed as planned, now that the company has received a permit.
Aside from Hotel Duncan, Eidelson said, the moratorium is part of the larger discussion about the lack of low-income housing in New Haven. She pointed out that there about 50 residents attended the public forum, and said housing is an issue the larger community should care about since there are “almost no affordable places to live” remaining in the city.
“The situation with the Duncan definitely was a key part of what had brought this issue to the forefront and has gotten a lot of affordable housing advocates involved,” Eidelson said.
Even if the Duncan project moves forward, Eidelson said she expects the alders’ proposal will still have an impact on the future of affordable housing in New Haven. She added that she hopes the Board of Alders will pursue zoning amendments that would allow for more SROs, instead of just halting the destruction of those that exist.
Colón expressed concern about the impact the Hotel Duncan renovations and future projects could have on the homeless population in New Haven. If the city can avoid any kind of increased homelessness, she said, it should seize the opportunity rather than preventing people from having access to housing.
“This is really about the kind of city we want to be and who we want our city to belong to,” Eidelson said.
Hotel Duncan is located at 1152 Chapel St.
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