Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

On Tuesday’s Board of Alders meeting, the alders voted on two initiatives to improve housing security in New Haven. 

The alders unanimously approved spending $4.8 million of federal grant money on affordable housing and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.They also voted for the tax abatement to a housing developer in exchange for affordable housing units in Science Park. 

The initiative will be funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Home Investment Partnerships Program through the American Rescue Plan. 

“It’s very important that we make sure that we understand that affordable housing is a part of our legislative agenda,” Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said during the meeting.

Affordable housing tax abatement

The BOA voted to approve tax deductions in exchange for providing affordable housing units at the Winchester Green Project — a housing project located at 315 Winchester Avenue in New Haven’s Science Park section of the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods. The housing development will replace a parking lot that currently stands there. 

The project was approved by the New Haven City Plan Commission on July 6, 2022. A month ago, the tax abatement was advanced with unanimous approval by a joint meeting of the Board of Alders Legislation and Tax Abatement Committees.

The Winchester Green building will contain 283 apartments, of which the developer committed to setting aside 57 — or 20 percent — of the apartments towards the affordable housing stock. These affordable units will be given to individuals and families whose income is less than 50 percent of the median income in the New Haven area. 

The approved tax abatement agreement reduces the real property tax for the developer over the next 17 years, starting with $450 per affordable unit in the first year. The tax deduction amount will increase by 3 percent each subsequent year. 

Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa opposed the 17-year-long tax abatement because, according to her, there were no calculations provided to justify the amount of tax deduction. 

“I cannot support these abatements, and our taxpayers deserve better, particularly since we live in a city with … 60 percent of our property being tax-exempt,” Festa said. “There’s no guarantee that this housing will go to New Haven families and residents.” 

Still, most of Festa’s colleagues supported the agreement. She was the only one to vote against the tax abatement, as all other present Alders voted in favor. 

Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand said that the site for the development will require a lot of work and investment, but, he noted, that the city will gain “a significant number” of “very affordable units.” Marchand said the project will transform the area, employing previously unused spots. 

Morrison said that BOA is responsible for providing affordable housing in the existing market conditions. 

“We have developers that are private now, we no longer have public ones that go into ensuring that we have affordable housing across the field,” Morrison said, responding to Festa. “Doing our part is ensuring that we use our tax dollars in a way that is going to help all.” 

At least $1 million for “non-congregate” shelter 

Initially, Mayor Elicker’s administration introduced a proposal for Alders to approve using $4 million, of $4.8 million total funds allocated by the federal government through the American Rescue Plan, for affordable renting housing. After heated debates and calls from the local activists to deal with the emergent needs of the community, Ward 1 Alex Guzhnay ’24 proposed an amendment to the city plan. 

According to his amendment, at least $1 million from the grant money will be redirected from affordable housing toward creating a non-congregate shelter in New Haven. Such living spaces give more privacy to unhoused individuals and prevent the spread of diseases like COVID-19. 

In support of Guzhnay’s amendment, Ward 7 Alder Eli Sabin said that the Health and Human Services Committee received “a lot” of testimony about the need for emergency shelter beds in the city during a hearing in mid-February. 

“Being able to put a million dollars to this funding towards great non-profit shelter beds will provide more spaces for those who are struggling with housing instability to have a warm and compassionate place to stay at night,” Sabin said. 

Guzhnay’s amendment also included the request for an advisory committee to be put in place to oversee the implementation of the plan by the city. It was unanimously approved by the BOA at the meeting. The entire spending plan for the federal grant was approved as well. 

As of 2019, New Haven counted 503 people experiencing homelessness, of which 98 were children.

Yurii Stasiuk covers City Hall and State Politics for the News. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.