Will Wang, Contributing Photographer
On Monday evening, the Board of Alders voted 21-2 in favor of a 17-year tax abatement for the redevelopment of 31 affordable housing units at Antillean Manor.
The Dwight affordable housing project, long in the works, was granted a tax rate of $42,554 per year across 17 years under the abatement plan. The new units will be available for residents below the 50 percent of area median income threshold. The project is run by Carabetta Companies, which bought Antillean Manor in 2018, and has involved extensive community input, according to Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers, who represents West River and Ward 23. The site’s new plan has broad support from many of the city’s alders, who say the manor will house residents in need of housing. Those opposed said the city’s tax abatement process is inherently flawed.
“I was a victim at one point of being young, having to worry about if the rain was going to fall on my head because there was a hole in the roof of the ceiling,” Ward 30 Alder Honda Smith said on the importance of guaranteeing quality affordable housing. “It’s time to stop talking about the what-ifs and look at what’s actually happening. These people deserve to live better than how they’re living.”
While the vast majority of alders supported the proposed abatement, two — Ward 7 Alder Abby Roth and Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa — spoke and voted against it. Festa argued that tax abatements like the one Carabetta requested make the city “the scapegoat” by making New Haven pay for what private developers should be funding.
“We are in desperate need of affordable housing,” Festa said. “But our surrounding towns don’t support us.”
This isn’t the first time Roth and Festa have expressed concern over the city’s tax abatement process. The Board of Alders voted in November to provide tax abatements for two affordable housing projects in the Dixwell neighborhood. Roth and Festa were the sole ‘nay’ votes on that proposal. The two claimed they were kept in the dark about the process the aldermanic Low Income Supportive Housing Tax Abatement Committee used to calculate the abatements.
In December, Roth and Festa proposed a workshop for alders to discuss a reevaluation of the abatement process, but that has not yet happened, Roth said.
“Given the city’s significant economic challenges and only 40 percent of property being taxable, it’s fiscally irresponsible to not have a framework for evaluating these proposals,” Roth said. “It makes it easy for developers like Carabetta to take advantage of the tax abatement process at the expense of other taxpayers.”
But Roth and Festa constituted an outspoken minority at the meeting. Amid rising tensions during the discussion of abatements, the two were urged by several of their colleagues, including Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison, to not digress from the matter of Antillean Manor.
Walker-Myers, delivering remarks at the end of the meeting, said the alders on LISHTA did “their due diligence,” because “that’s what they’re put there for,” referencing Festa and Roth’s skepticism about the committee’s process.
“When we talk about transparency — transparency does not mean something isn’t transparent because you’re not in the room,” she said. “What we’re actually doing is advocating for people who are underserved. Everybody cannot afford to live in a really expensive home with a number of different fireplaces. These are people who have the rain come down in their apartment.”
Antillean’s redevelopment was discussed at a Feb. 23 Board of Alders Tax Abatement Committee meeting.
Clay WIlliams, of New Haven’s Economic Development Administration, acknowledged concerns about the tax abatement process at the meeting. But he said that the project should continue because it could provide new housing at a point where it is essential.
“Right now, we’re kind of flying without any guidance and we’re looking at what we consider to be a reasonable cost and reasonable numbers,” Williams said. “But we do need more guidance from the city in terms of how we should go forward with it. We don’t want to lose this project. So our recommendation stands for this project. The committee feels that it’s worth it for the city for $50,000 a year to support 31 families’ low income housing.”
At the Tax Abatement Committee meeting, Carabetta’s Helen Muniz emphasized that the planning process for Antillean Manor has been a long-term, involved project.
“We are very committed to this project,” she said. “I have spent four years not only reorganizing the [manor’s] board and working with the residents to create a design and a place for them to call home again. We really wanted to make this a cohesive community engagement for this development.”
Riqu Toney, a resident of Antillean Manor for the last 20 years, backed Muniz’s claim. She said that the property has been improving since Carabetta bought it and has “high hopes” for the repairs. Toney hopes to move back after the redevelopment.
In addition to the tax abatement from the city, Carabetta will be able to use a $3.1 million grant they received from Connecticut for the redevelopment process.
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