Board of Alders amends previous order providing affordable reentry housing
On Monday, the Board of Alders unanimously amended an order that would help develop two structures in the Dixwell neighborhood for Believe In Me Empowerment Corporation, a local prison reintegration program.
In their bimonthly meeting on Monday, the Board of Alders amended a previous resolution that gave the Believe In Me Empowerment Corporation permission to use 53 Sheldon Ave. for affordable housing.
BIMEC — an organization dedicated to providing services to local youth and adults impacted by incarceration — received permission from the Board of Alders in 2017 to purchase 320 Shelton Ave. for $1,000. In 2019, BIMEC was also able to purchase 53 Shelton Ave. Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter ’11 submitted the motion on Monday to amend the 2019 order selling 53 Shelton Ave. from the original ordinance which allowed BIMEC to develop a single-room occupancy structure with an office on site. The amendment proposed the development of two structures with affordable units at 80 percent area median income or below — which would make housing feasible for low-income communities in New Haven. At Monday’s meeting, alders unanimously approved the amendment.
“These modifications will allow Believe In Me Empowerment Corporation to provide deeply affordable housing and social services to men and women recently released from prison who are reintegrating back into the community and rebuilding relationships with their families,” Winter said at the meeting. “The modifications will allow all of this while addressing residents’ desire for increased privacy and spaces of their own that efficiency units can afford.”
In addition to offering affordable housing to individuals who were formerly incarcerated, BIMEC offers case management, education, referrals and employment help. On their Facebook page, the organization posts updates on their progress developing housing at 320 Shelton Ave., which they call BIMEC II.
BIMEC has faced a plethora of zoning hurdles leading up to its housing developments. James Walker, BIMEC’s founder and executive director, appeared in front of the Board of Zoning in 2016 prior to purchasing property on Shelton Avenue. At the meeting, he requested to adapt the corporation’s headquarters into partial housing. The request was denied — but eventually led to BIMEC’s collaboration with New Haven’s Livable City Initiative, which has worked with the corporation in order to develop affordable housing.
The Board of Alders’ legislative agenda in March listed affordable housing as a priority for the year ahead. Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand noted then that the board should focus on developing “policies to support the creation of more affordable units … [and] strengthen [the city’s] inspection programs.
Some alders, such as Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94, previously noted that zoning changes are an easy and effective way of creating affordable housing around the city without a significant investment from City Hall. Winter clarified that all of Monday’s updates were made in accordance with the New Haven Zoning Ordinance.
BIMEC was founded in 2007.
Ángela Pérez | firstname.lastname@example.org