Courtesy of Junyi Wang

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven marked a milestone Monday evening as the housing nonprofit celebrated 44 years of community organizing and service. 

At its 44th annual meeting, Neighborhood Housing Services representatives highlighted local talents and their organizing efforts to empower communities and bolster affordable housing initiatives. 

“We are certainly proud of all that we have accomplished in stabilizing New Haven’s underserved neighborhoods, bringing homeownership opportunities to a large number of first-time homebuyers,” James Paley, executive director of NHS, wrote to the News.

Since 1979, NHS of New Haven has renovated almost 300 homes in New Haven and helped place over 500 low-income families into those homes. Their mission is to provide affordable housing options, offer homebuyer education and foster financial empowerment, while working to enhance the safety, aesthetics and energy efficiency of homes in underserved communities.

The catered meeting featured local artists and musicians. The organization also recognized four individuals who NHS said have played pivotal roles in shaping the work of NHS across the city and the state. Tenée Mack of Operation Fuel Connecticut was honored as the “Exceptional Sustainability Partner,” while Reinaldo Cruz III, EMERGE Connecticut’s Director of Training and Business Development received the “Outstanding Service Partner” award. 

The “Incredible Resident Leader” award went to Kwadwo Adae, an award-winning artist who founded and directs the Adea Fine Arts Academy in New Haven. Lastly, Ojay Lewis, a New Haven firefighter and NHS home recipient, was celebrated as the “Housing Advocacy Champion.” 

NHS also recognized collaborations with Yale students, including a Community Art Environment Entrepreneurship Project led by Paloma Lenz ’26 and the Yale Urban Design Workshop’s work on some of the housing units.

In conjunction with the Yale Student Environmental Coalition and NHS, Lenz hopes to construct an environmentally conscious community space “that integrates Indigenous technology with modern construction methods,” she wrote to the News.

The event featured speakers including Leslie Radcliffe, president of the NHS Board of Directors, and Jim Paley, executive director of NHS. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker also spoke and emphasized the vital role NHS plays in the city’s growth and development. Commissioner of Housing Seila Mosquera-Bruno and first-time homebuyer Shellina Toure discussed  the transformative impact of NHS’s services.

In addition to providing affordable housing, NHS provides homeownership tools, such as financial counseling, mortgage lending and home repair through the HomeOwnership Center. 

“Our main focus in the HomeOwnership Center is providing information and education that ultimately will equip prospective homebuyers to make excellent choices,” Bridgette Russell, Managing Director of the HOC, wrote to the News. 

Russell also touted HOC’s teams that work with homeowners to address mortgage delinquency and prevent foreclosures.

Alongside the celebration, a silent art auction took place, featuring the work of Jasmine Nikole, Akosua Aidoo, Wanda Reyes and Marquis Brantley.

Payley told the News that despite the growing challenges of creating affordable housing, NHS is focused on expanding homeownership in New Haven to as many residents as possible.

“We are keenly aware that neighborhood stabilization is enhanced by increasing homeownership ratios in our neighborhoods, and we are committed to raising the subsidies needed to continue this work in New Haven,” Paley wrote.

The meeting took place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at NXTHVN, which was founded by renowned artist Titus Kaphar ’06 MFA and was open to the public. 

Dorothea Robertson covers art at Yale. A member of Yale College's Class of 2025, she will receive a B.A. in Religious Studies, focusing on religious art.