Courtesy of Liam Brennan

New Haven has hired Liam Brennan LAW ’07, Hartford’s inspector general and a former New Haven mayoral candidate, as a consultant to rethink the city’s embattled Livable City Initiative. The hiring has not been announced by the city. 

Brennan will start his work as a contracted consultant in late April after stepping down from his position in Hartford. According to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, Brennan will work on strengthening LCI’s operations, services and engagement with tenants and landlords.

LCI has come under fire in recent years for failing to adequately address tenant complaints, primarily due to an understaffed team.

Earlier this year, Elicker submitted a budget proposal to expand LCI’s staff and funding. If approved, the proposal will add eight new staff positions and create a new Office of Housing and Community Development that focuses on creating new housing throughout the city.

“LCI has taken a lot of really good steps in recent years to improve the work that they are doing,” Elicker told the News. “We’re looking at ways to improve their work further. Part of that is the budget proposal as submitted to the alders … and part of this is bringing on some outside thought partners to assist as well.”

Brennan told the News that Elicker called him at the end of last year to discuss housing issues in the city and invited him to apply for the contract. Brennan said he felt that the mayor was committed to investing in LCI, and when the city opened bids for the consultant contract, he applied. 

According to Elicker, Brennan was the only applicant for the contract but the mayor underscored that he “brings a lot to the table.” 

After spending 10 years working in the Department of Justice, Brennan joined the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, where he worked in the newly created Community and Economic Development unit for one year. During this time, Brennan spoke to many residents who raised complaints about the quality and affordability of the city’s housing stock.

“Those sentiments map onto the data that’s out there about how many people are rent-burdened in New Haven … There was this confluence of … the high-level data and anecdotal experience of people I was interacting with,” Brennan said. 

Roughly half of households in New Haven are cost-burdened, meaning that over 30 percent of their gross income goes towards housing costs. This is among the highest rates of cost-burdened households of any municipality in the state.

These perspectives led Brennan to center his mayoral campaign on the housing crisis in the city. 

Before moving to his job in Hartford mayor’s office as an inspector general, Brennan also served as an executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, where a third of legal cases concerned housing, he said.

In the Democratic mayoral primary last September, Brennan lost to Elicker by more than a 2-to-1 margin. 

“We’ve always had a good relationship despite the fact that we had a competition last year,” Brennan said of Elicker. 

Under the contract, Brennan will be paid at the rate of $100 an hour, with a maximum monthly compensation of $15,000, according to Lenny Speiller, the city director of communications. Over the course of six months, the maximum compensation will be $75,000. 

Brennan commended Elicker’s proposal to add staff members to LCI, including new inspectors and an attorney. He emphasized that the department should explore legal mechanisms to enforce housing codes.  

Staff changes to LCI may also impact different entities within the city.

Laura Brown, the executive director of the City Plan Department, noted that the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals works alongside on housing and enforcement issues.

“Our staff work closely together,” Brown said.

During the project, Brennan will work with city housing employees and research experiences in other municipalities to recommend structural changes to LCI. He said that his advocacy experiences will inform his work for the city, but he will “keep an open mind.”

Brennan said he expects to finish the work by October. He shared that he does not have any plans after his contract with the city ends but will continue to stay engaged with New Haven. 

“New Haven is my home, and I love the city, and the chance to do this here and work with the people who are living in community is really, really exciting,” Brennan said.

The next fiscal year starts on July 1.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.
Natasha Khazzam covers housing and homelessness for city desk. She previously covered climate and the environment. Originally from Great Neck, New York, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history and English.