As Speculators Flee, Paley Takes On Winchester

Thomas MacMillan Photo Even as New Haven’s more affluent areas recover from the housing crisis, Newhallville is still dealing with boarded-up homes and sinking property values. Enter New Haven’s most seasoned house-rescuer, who says it’s time to double-down on a risky plan to pull the neighborhood back from the edge.

The rescuer is Jim Paley, who for decades has restored neglected old homes in struggling neighborhoods and helped working families buy them through his not-for-profit Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS).

Now Paley’s agency is taking on what might be its toughest challenge: Newhallville’s battered Winchester Avenue corridor and surrounding streets. A new round of speculators are defaulting on mortgages there and in at least one stretch other not-for-profits like Habitat for Humanity have fled, along with the confidence of potential owner-occupants.

NHS recently rehabbed four houses in the area—and for the first time in its history didn’t have buyers lined up when they finished. NHS has never before had more than one unsold house in its inventory at a time, Paley said.

Faced with such unprecedented circumstances, Paley has decided not to retreat, but to advance. He’s spearheading an aggressive re-investment strategy to buy up and rehabilitate clusters of distressed homes on several streets in Newhallville. He aims to support the neighborhood by targeting not just single homes that have fallen into neglect, but groups of homes.

The idea is that you can’t get a buyer interested in a home—even a newly renovated one—if the house next door is boarded up.

It’s not cheap for NHS to hold onto completed homes; until a house sells, the agency can’t recoup its investments and put that money toward other homes.

“It’s a risky strategy,” he said. But “we can’t afford not to do it.”

On a recent wintry afternoon, Paley took a drive through Newhallville, pointing out the houses NHS has recently purchased or renovated.

“There’s growing disparity between the affluent and poor sections of New Haven,” Paley said as he pulled out of the NHS parking lot on Sherman Avenue in his silver Audi station wagon.

In East Rock, housing prices are stable, he said. In Newhallville, however, prices are falling and residents are losing confidence.

After the housing crisis led to foreclosures on homes owned by speculators a few years ago, a new group of speculators moved in to buy up distressed properties in Newhallville, Paley said. (So did an alleged group of scammers who committed mortgage fraud, took the money from the mortgages, and left Newhallville properties abandoned and decrepit.) Now a second round of foreclosures has begun, preventing the neighborhood from stabilizing the way some other areas in town have.

“Investors saw they could pick them up for a reduced price,” Paley said. They thought, “I’ll wait until the market heats up,” and then sell for a profit. But the market never turned around in Newhallville; developers couldn’t sell, and ended up just dropping them, not paying the bills, and triggering foreclosures.

“Everything ratchets down a notch,” Paley said.

NHS is stepping into that second foreclosure round and, competing against the out-of-town speculators, buying up distressed properties in batches. “My hope is that we’ve acquired the worst of the lot. But we’re not having success with sales,” Paley said.

“We’re hoping tangible signs of investment will trigger other investment,” he said.

The first stop on Paley’s Newhallville tour was West Division Street. The little one-way street, which connects Dixwell and Sherman avenues, has only 13 houses on its one-block length. NHS acquired one of them, 335 West Division St., in 2008, when it was in disrepair. NHS rehabbed it, but now can’t sell it.

“It’s been on the market for more than a year,” Paley said. “One reason is the house on the corner,” he said, pointing out his car window at a boarded up duplex (pictured below). NHS picked up the house six months ago in a foreclosure from Fannie Mae and plans to renovate it.

Down the block, Paley pointed out 319-321 West Division, also boarded up, and also owned by NHS as of four months ago. Altogether, NHS now owns four houses in the area.

“My plan is this spring and summer they’ll all be under construction,” Paley said. Ideally, the new construction will help turn around a struggling neighborhood.

“There have been a number of problems that have beset this area,” he said. The block has seen two homicides in less than a year and a major fire nearby on Dixwell Avenue.

“In a small area, the problems are magnified,” Paley said. But, if turned around, a small area can create a strong neighborhood “enclave,” he said. That would mean people caring more about their neighborhood, more engaged in local decisions, and more invested.

Paley continued on to Winchester Avenue, where he pointed out three homes NHS recently completed, at 653, 664, and 678 Winchester.

“This again is the really concentrated targeting,” Paley said. The problems on Winchester go beyond just three homes, he said. That’s why NHS recently picked up 726 and 838 Winchester.

Paley looped back to Starr Street, by way of Bassett. On Starr Street, Paley got out of the car to point out two more houses that NHS recently picked up. He fell into a conversation with two neighbors shoveling the sidewalk across the street.

Louis Enill (at right in photo) owns the house across the street. He said drug dealers used to live at one of the houses NHS now owns. The neighborhood is a close-knit one, in which people look out for each other, Enill said. “We’re looking for a good family to live there.”

Paley told him that the house would be sold only to someone who plans to live in it, not an absentee landlord.

Paley said that buying and renovating one of the houses would cost $325,000, and NHS will sell it for about $185,000.

NHS can afford to do that by taking advantage of a variety of state and federal tax credits and housing programs, Paley explained back in the car. The subsidies are attached to the house in such a way that the buyer cannot turn around and re-sell the house for a profit. “We prevent profiteering and flipping houses,” Paley said.

Back in the parking lot at NHS headquarters, Paley described a historical precedent to what NHS is trying to do in Newhallville. In the early ‘80s, when Upper State Street was characterized by abandoned buildings, two investors—Bob Frew and Ken Krause—saw an opportunity and began buying up properties.

“They didn’t do anything until they owned them all,” Paley said. Then they rehabilitated all of them at once and created a market, he said.  That’s the same strategy NHS is embarking on now in Newhallville, Paley said. “But to stabilize the neighborhood, not to make money.”

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posted by: Webblog1 on February 7, 2011  12:57pm

It’s interesting to note that Paley and his NHS is now dedicating it’s efforts in a community long ignored by the city of New Haven.

Now that Winstanley and the Yale connection have moved to take over the Winchester area of Newhallville, does the city send Paley in to perform cosmetic window dressing.

For the past Fifteen years or more, Habitat for Humanity was the sole housing rehabilitation operative in NewHallville and provided a solid record of accomplishment, without the city of New Haven’s assistance.

The problem going forward is identical to recent past history, the city blew it’s chance to make real long term improvements in NewHallville’s housing stock when it failed to utilize the federal tax credit and benefits offered through Empower New Haven’s enterprise zone tax laws.

Rather, the city chose to overly concentrate it’s efforts on school construction, ignoring the important components for these children   of a decent home and a job for the parents who are now decimated.

posted by: anon on February 7, 2011  2:07pm

“There’s growing disparity between the affluent and poor sections of New Haven.”

That’s the story of the entire country.  The disparities in New Haven are no worse than they are in Branford, West Haven or Hamden (and at least New Haven funds homeless services, mostly for residents of other towns like these).

100% of income growth since the 1970s has gone to the top 10%.  The rich demand more and more subsidized highways out to the suburbs so that they and their kids can commute with massive SUVs anywhere they want.  Since gas taxes only cover a few cents on the dollar of the cost of these highways, that’s where much of our money goes.  The rich also start demanding huge tax breaks, because they no longer have a stake in the public good, and no longer need annoying public goods such as social security, public schools, or hospitals. 

Even the elite union leadership, which lives almost entirely in suburbs such as Westbrook, keeps demanding huge increases to their wages, pensions and benefits (like Reggie Mayo’s free city SUV, or the police union’s 100K+ pensions) even though they know very well that New Haven’s taxpayers (and renters, who pay most of the tax) already pay over 50% of their incomes on housing and can not even remotely afford such largesse.

The result is massive disinvestment in existing neighborhoods, towns and cities. 

It is not going to end anytime soon until our leaders in Congress have the guts to stand up to the special interests of the top 1%, which now controls 80% of our nation’s wealth/assets and therefore close to 100% of political power.

posted by: anon on February 7, 2011  2:31pm

Webblog1-

You lie!

First and foremost, Jim Paley and his board are no puppets of the city. So your Winstanley-Yale connection is ill-conceived. Any honest observer will attest to the that. Paley sees an opportunity and jumps on it. This also gives him a (legitimate) excuse to “landbank”.

Second, many years ago the city partnered with several non-profits including Habitat, to sink millions of dollars into rehabilitation, demolition, new construction, public improvements and stepped-up code enforcement in the neighborhood.

Say what you want about the City’s strategy or approach to turn around the ‘ville. Chances blown with respect to enterprise dollars is a more intellectually honest debate, but your insinuation, without more, is just lazy and a slap in the face of the hardworking people who go to work every day concerned about how much more they can do to help a neighborhood, which collectively has shown little interest in its own preservation.

Do better.

posted by: Nan Bartow on February 7, 2011  3:42pm

Jim Paley is one of my heroes.  Thanks, Jim and Neighborhood Housing.

posted by: anon on February 7, 2011  4:09pm

Newhallville seems to have a major problem, one that is not faced by any other part of New Haven.

In addition to the overwhelming concentration of foreclosures and violent crime in Newhallville relative to most other city neighborhoods (a few small sections of the Hill and Fair Haven notwithstanding), Newhallville is one of the few areas of the city that’s actually in decline.

According to the Census Bureau website, the Foxon Road area may have also increased in poverty/decay over the past 10 years, but not nearly to the same degree as Newhallville has. 

Meanwhile, almost every other neighborhood in New Haven besides these two has seen increased income since 2000. 

Why is Newhallville such an exception?  Is it only because most of the lower-income families who were kicked out of Elm Haven back around 2001 or so were forced to move there?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 7, 2011  4:16pm

The vast majority of New Haven’s housing stock was built between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the First World War. Most of this housing stock was either (1) workforce housing built in relation to industrial centers such as factories and rail yards, or (2) houses for a rising middle class in relation to trolley lines that delivered professionals and managers downtown. The workforce housing often came in the form of multi-family houses, small apartment buildings, apartment flats above shops, shotgun houses, and tenement rowhouses. The middle class housing often came in the form of the 2-family house, the modest single family house, the upscale apartment building, and townhouses.
As any homeowner can attest to, routine maintenance of houses is required to ensure that the building stays aesthetically pleasing, sanitary, and structurally sound and not just for the livability of the property, but also the resale value.
Typically, routine maintenance is not done on a property because of either poor landlord practices or lack of disposable income of the owner.
In the late 1800s, a US economic recession caused much of New Haven’s recently built housing stock to go without routine maintenance from their owners due to a inaccessibility of disposable income that could be allocated for simple maintenance and repairs of buildings. When the recession ended, investment shifted to new development and not into the existing housing stock, which by the turn of the century, was being handed from the second generation Irish and German immigrants to the newly arrived Italian and Jewish immigrants.
World War 1 represented another period where there was little access to disposable income for families to use for routine maintenance on the city’s housing stock because of the time and energy exerted on the war effort. The city’s housing stock continued to decay.
When investment occurred, however, it was focused on new housing, not on refurbishing what was already existing.
The Great Depression marked another period of prolonged disinvestment in the city’s buildings. This melded into World War 2, which again left families with little money and time to devote to their property due to the war effort that required factories like Winchester Repeating Arms to run 24/7 in order to meet the demand of the government contracts.
As part of the New Deal, the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created in 1933 to deal with the crash of the home mortgage market. HOLC went around the country surveying the existing condition of the nation’s housing stock for the use of banks in determining riskiness for mortgage loans. The criteria for the HOLC study partly relied on the physical condition of the buildings, and partly with the racial and class make up of the given neighborhood.
Most of New Haven’s neighborhoods, having a large population of working class residence of relatively recent immigrant ancestry, were given low grades, which translated into redlining by banks, and continued decay of the housing stock because families could not qualify for loans based on where they lived.
During the post-WW2 reconstruction era, the government supported suburban development through preferential subsidies, zoning laws, and various Acts, which called for the destruction of cities (Housing Act of 1949, Highway Act of 1956, etc).
A nearly continuous period of economic and social uncertainty existed in this country during the time that the bulk of New Haven’s housing stock was built (1860-1920). New investment was always put into new construction rather than into existing buildings, which drew people out of their old neighborhoods and into new ones, only to be replaced by larger numbers of people who were lower down on the economic latter, resulting in the city’s housing stock being pushed to its limit in terms of capacity.
These practices are still very much in existence today. The government overwhelmingly supports suburban development over urban redevelopment with new construction subsidies, green field land price repression due to industrial farming subsidies, the tax structure, zoning laws, and homeownership subsidies.
“The overall cost of the road project is expected to be about $2 million. State funding of $800,000, through the state Department of Economic and Community Development, will be combined with a $1 million federal U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, to pay for the project.”
http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/12/14/bb2_mon_deroadpermits121410.txt
Meanwhile, industrial buildings are vacant in New Haven and other former industrial towns.
“plans to build 52 ‘workforce’ homes in Branford using AFL-CIO funds”
http://newhavenindependent.org/index.php/branford/entry/back_to_the_drawing_board_for_workforce_homes/
Meanwhile, housing in New Haven’s neighborhoods sit abandoned and rotting.
There are some very good provision written into the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (and later amendments), which help to make redevelopment investment possible and affordable, but the scale is still overwhelmingly tilted towards new suburban development over green fields.

Jim is correct that what NHS is doing is risky, but luckily he has planned precisely resulting in this being a wise risk. Taking on this many properties for rehabilitation with so many already not selling would most likely have been a mistake if the properties were spread evenly throughout the city. However, by concentrating on specific areas of Newhallville, there is a serious chance that this could spark the type of investment that has been lacking in a neighborhood like Newhallville for far too long. The incredible work that is done at NHS is precisely the type of investment that can get the ball rolling for the kind of private sector development that began the rejuvenation of upper State Street, which continues to this day as evident by the lack of commercial parking for the street’s thriving business sector.
NHS takes the most distressed properties on a block and turns them into the most desirable and attractive. This occurring on a larger scale within Newhallville could be that physical, aesthetic rejuvenation needed that can finally overcome all of the decades of negative stigma that has engulfed the neighborhood since the 1930s with the racist, classist, and misguided HOLC study that deprived home owners of the loans they needed to rehabilitate their aging properties and certified and reinforced an anti-urban sentiment in the population. Now, nearly a century later, NHS is working to pick up the pieces of decades of decay, and several layers of poor renovations done by inexperienced contractors, and bad developers, which comes are an extremely high, but necessary, cost. 

It is now the city’s job to help NHS’s effort by rewriting the zoning ordinance to support good human-scaled urban design, lobbying the State to expand the historic rehab tax credits, incentivize city workers to live in the city with home ownership programs for neighborhoods like Newhallville, and attract working class jobs with the same enthusiasm that has expanded the medical and technology sectors. Without private sector investment, city hall effectiveness and a citizenry ready to see Newhallville in a new light, NHS’s efforts may be in vain. Now is not the time to sit back and wait to see whether someone else’s efforts with succeed or fail, it is the time to get involved and ensure that this effort does not have to address an enormous problem on its own.

posted by: Jack on February 7, 2011  5:14pm

These look like very large homes.  What family would ever buy a home on a block in Newhallville that has had two homicides, shootings, mugging, and drug dealing?  Who would choose to have their children play in that area.  I can understand having to rent there because you have no money.  However if you are pre-approved for a home loan, why would you spend your money in that area?  There are much less dangerous areas with houses on the market for the same amount of money, the Heights is one example.  The intentions are good, but who is going to use their children as Guinea pigs for the greater good?

posted by: webblog1 on February 7, 2011  5:41pm

To: Jonathan Hopkins,

That you for the historical background and analysis explaining many of reasons that neighborhoods like Newhallville fall into   neglect and despair.

To compare statements;

your last paragraph provides summation of my own analogy as to what gave rise to the housing stock problem in distressed neighborhoods like newhallville, with no political representation.


My statement above:

“The problem going forward is identical to recent past history, the city blew it’s chance to make real long term improvements in NewHallville’s housing stock when it failed to utilize the federal tax credit and benefits offered through Empower New Haven’s enterprise zone tax laws”.

Your statement above:

“It is now the city’s job to help NHS’s effort by rewriting the zoning ordinance to support good human-scaled urban design, lobbying the State to expand the historic rehab tax credits, incentivize city workers to live in the city with home ownership programs for neighborhoods like Newhallville, and attract working class jobs with the same enthusiasm that has expanded the medical and technology sectors. Without private sector investment, city hall effectiveness and a citizenry ready to see Newhallville in a new light, NHS’s efforts may be in vain. Now is not the time to sit back and wait to see whether someone else’s efforts with succeed or fail, it is the time to get involved and ensure that this effort does not have to address an enormous problem on its own”.

However, overall I still content, that with out major assistance from the city, state, and federal housing agencies, Paley, with best intentions, can only accomplish superficial window dressing.

To Annon:

I have no clue of what you are trying to say above in your two post about this subject….

But consider, could Jonathan and I both be lying??

posted by: robn on February 7, 2011  6:31pm

JACK,

Back in the late 70s, Chapel above the Green, which is now the darling retail zone of the city, was burned out and boarded up. In the late 80s, Goatville was plagued with crime and drug dealing.

Both were changed with bold investment and daring pioneers. It can happen.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 7, 2011  7:47pm

webblog1,
To characterize what NHS does as window dressing is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year, but subtract the hyperbole from your comment, and I think there is merit to your point - NHS cannot ensure that Newhallville will be an economically, socially and physically thriving place on its own. However, I don’t think that this is the precise goal of NHS’s recent initiative in Newhallville. They want to “stabilize” the neighborhood through homeownership.
To me, stabilizing a neighborhood means to take it, as anon said, from “declining” to viable and attractive for further investment.
Robn makes excellent use of other examples in New Haven where investment turned areas around. Although, I would characterize upper State Street of the 1980s, and Chapel Street of the 1970s as being stable when investment began, which resulted in thriving places. I would also add Grand Avenue to that list, because of investments made in it by new immigrant communities resulting in the area beginning to stabilize and thrive.
Newhallville, and some other areas of the city are not at the level of being stable yet. NHS’s initiative can definitely get the neighborhood up from critical to stable condition, which would then allow private investment to come in and create a thriving neighborhood with perhaps some more upper middle class housing options, businesses, stores, etc.
The city’s job will be to ensure that the correct development apparatus is in place (form-based zoning ordinance), the proper incentives exist for families and businesses (home buyer’s program, tax breaks for locally owned enterprises), connectivity within the neighborhood is adequate (repaired sidewalks, painted crosswalks, bike lanes, bike racks, transit improvements) and that this coincides with the work that NHS will be doing in Newhallville over the next 3-4 years.
For those citizens that want to do more than just complain or sit by ideally waiting for other people to get things done, their job will be to see if their perceptions of Newhallville actually match up to the reality of that city neighborhood, where working families currently raise kids, businesses start up, stores open and where problems are solved with involvement and investment.

posted by: Nashstreeter on February 8, 2011  1:23am

There are other things to consider about the Newhallville neighborhood besides investment (in the monetary sense). The city has long abandoned Newhallville in its thoughts and actions. MLK school has gone from bad to outsourced, for instance. There has not been any “investment” in the children of that area in a long time (unless you count the extra police sent to control them). It is a mecca for Section 8 landlords to charge exhorbitant rents for sub-standard housing and get away with it, as well as for banks and appraisers to engage in house-flipping schemes. It seems like the city, the banks—and all of us citizens as well—have been indifferent to the shifting around of poor people from neighborhood to neighborhood;  we always know where the “bad” areas are (DixwDix-wellwhallville, Fair Haven, the Hill, West River). We have a crime and deterioration map in our minds—where not to go at night. And we seem to just accept that—gotta put the poor people somewhere.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the poor people. Trying to get moneyed people (not necessarily the rich investors but also the middle-class homeowners) into an area to “bring it up” is not at all the same as bringing up the un- and under-employed folks currently living there. We’re just displacing the poorer residents with better-off ones. Think of it this way: if all the people in Newhallville were earning $30,000 more per year than they currently are, would the neighborhood be as beaten up as it is? Would the cops have to spend most of their time there? Would mortgage and Section 8 scammers find fertile ground to ply their trade?

It’s absolutely true, I think, that targeted house re-hab and home ownership can help to revive a neighborhood. But what we really need is for people to not be poor—to not be at the mercy of slumlords and bank scams and rotten schools and diminished city services and the “Beat Down Posse” cops. These are things that middle class folks in middle class areas don’t have to contend with. No one should have to.

posted by: robn on February 8, 2011  10:09am

NASHSTREETER,

One of my fundamental problems with the current property taxes structure is that it annually assigns value on the basis of resale value, which is irrelevant and valueless to those who want to remain in place and rewarding to those who flip and move.

You pointed out another fundamental problem…the property tax system can only be fair in a very homogeneous housing market. In a City like NH, with vast expanses of low income neighborhoods, the tax burden is dramatically shifted to the shrinking middle class. This is a loophole which neglectful absentee landlords exploit to their benefit. Perhaps the state could enact a small but significant change to the tax code that allows a city to weight assessments according to rental income. Rental income is in fact, current and assessable value.

posted by: Mike on February 8, 2011  10:55am

I live in Fair Haven and happened to be driving on Winchester yesterday. What I saw was not good. Boarded up houses, people stopped in their cars in the middle of the street either talking to someone or picking up their kids from school with no regard to anyone around them. Punks walking down the middle of the road for no reason, people parked on corners all the way up to the double yellow line, garbage covering the snow…

And to think I thought Fair Haven was out of control… That is one sad part of town.

posted by: Jim Paley on February 8, 2011  5:57pm

Many thanks for all of your thoughtful comments.  I wanted to take a moment to address some of them:

Webblog1:  NHS never performs “cosmetic window dressing.”  Our houses are all “gut” rehabs so that low-income homebuyers will not be subjected to unaffordable major/systems repairs.  We also have worked in Newhallville in the past, featuring two houses on Read Street, four on Sheffield Avenue, one on Dixwell Avenue, and two on Shelton Avenue.  Most of our project development subsidies come from tax credit programs.

Jack:  Your point is well taken, which is why our organization is committed not only to renovating houses but also to strengthening communities by fostering resident engagement.  Our Revitalization Demonstration Project, as we call it, includes changes in the physical characteristics of the neighborhood, reinvestment in the housing stock, and engaging residents to help them take back their neighborhoods.  I would suspect that most, if not all, of the violence is drug-related.  If active, engaged residents, working with the police, can band together to drive out the drug dealers, we would see a dramatic reversal of the decline that has afflicted Newhallville.  Will the first round of homebuyers be guinea pigs?  To a certain degree, yes.  But by taking a risk on a neighborhood, they are purchasing completely renovated homes at a fraction of what they would cost in other areas of the city.  Effective community organizing is hard work, but it generally pays off.  And the Newhallville neighborhood has a great many strengths that can provide long-term benefits for those who do purchase our houses.

Mike: I can’t disagree with you…the dynamic you’ve noted is what we’re attempting to change.  We’ve seen these problems before and we’ll surely see them again.  By adopting a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization, we combine homeownership with reinvestment in the housing stock and resident engagement.  There are no guarantees in this business, but if we don’t try to change things for the better, they will only get worse.

And a special thanks to Jonathan Hopkins, Nan Barlow, and Anon for your support!

posted by: webblog1 on February 8, 2011  6:27pm

To Jim Paley:

I appreciate your comments and do not disagree with your mission statement or your accomplishments.

Please allow me to clarify my statement regarding window dressing…my intent is that without local, state, and federal assistance, which could have been provided under N.H. Empowerment Enterprise, but did not, the effect of groups like yours Habitat, and the city’s federal home program, the results are meek in comparison to the need.

Indeed, the fact that your organization has completed only nine units in Newhallville over the years highlight this fact.

Nevertheless, I appreciate and support the efforts that have been made by all of the non-profits to date.

posted by: Jim Paley on February 8, 2011  8:53pm

To Webblog1:  Thank you for your follow-up comments.  I certainly agree that the results in Newhallville have fallen far short of the need.  Over the years, NHS has adopted two distinct targeting strategies that govern our affordable housing development activities.  Strategic targeting, which is what we are now doing in Newhallville, relies on acquiring and rehabilitating a significant number of houses in a relatively compact area so that we can maximize the impact of our work.  We have successfully employed this strategy on Carmel Street and Winthrop Avenue in Beaver Hills; On Sherman Avenue from Edgewood Avenue to Percival Street; and on Gilbert Avenue in West River.  The other targeting strategy we call selective targeting, where we do one or two houses on a given block that is otherwise relatively stable.  This infusion of reinvestment is designed to stimulate confidence in the area and possibly motivate private reinvestment.  At the very least, our hope is that people will not forsake these neighborhoods out of a fear that decline is imminent. The houses we have previously renovated in Newhallville were more in line with the selective targeting model, with the possible exception of two houses on Read Street where we worked together with Habitat for Humanity to rehab a total of five houses near the corner of Shepard Street.  Our commitment now is clearly to acquire a critical mass of houses so that our rehabilitation will have a significant impact in Newhallville, especially on West Division Street and Wincheter Avenue.  We invite anyone who is interested in touring our houses to contact our office at (203) 562-0598.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 9, 2011  6:59am

webblog1,
...
First of all, Jim listed 9 houses that have been rehabilitated, which means more than 9 units of housing because most of the houses in Newhallville are multifamily, and NHS’s houses that aren’t rented through them are all owner-occupied with rental units rented out through the owner. Second of all, it takes months, sometimes over a year, to inspect houses, secure them, do preliminary design work, consult contractors, revise design, begin construction, redesign during construction, finish a house and market it and sell it.
Habitat for Humanity builds new houses, NHS primarily rehabilitates existing houses and works with struggling home owners to educate them on home maintenance through a comprehensive series of workshops and lectures (which are open to the public, check the website) and help people finance their mortgages so that more homeowners can stay in their homes, and contribute to stability in their neighborhood. So, that 9 houses figure doesn’t include all the people that NHS has helped to remain in their homes. NHS takes properties that are a source of blight and turns them into the nicest properties on the street. The benefits of this cannot be overstated.
NHS is a non-profit organization, not a city department. The work it has completed on its own is superb, and its portfolio is immense.
Suggesting that NHS can or should attempt to solve every problem facing New Haven’s neighborhoods from economics to social order is like suggesting that the City of New Haven needs to solve the global financial crash.
What NHS’s effort can do is trigger a chain reaction of further investment which will address many of the larger issues you seem to think NHS needs to be directly solving. A neighborhood with beautiful homes rather than blight is a neighborhood that is likely to attract jobs, retail, and a middle class population, which is what Newhallville has been missing for several decades.
The city should encourage low-skill jobs with the same aggressiveness that it has pursued high-skill jobs and the city should upgrade transportation infrastructure like sidewalks, bike facilities and transit. NHS’s aesthetic efforts at beautifying the neighborhood through house rehab and stabilizing the neighborhood through homeownership combined with an effort from the city to improve infrastructure would be an excellent incentive for much needed private sector investment in the neighborhood. In order to adequately fulfill the need of the underemployed and undereducated population in Newhallville, the city can tweak certain development perimeters, and subsidize certain uses to get the jobs that the existing population need and to provide the amenities that a future middle class population would want.
These development perimeter tweaks include reforming the zoning ordinance and tax structure. Subsidies might include home buyer’s programs and free bus passes for city workers, tax breaks for locally-owned businesses, tax credits for businesses that employ city residents and that discourage employees from driving to work, etc.
The days of intense, unified local, state and federal initiatives is likely over and probably for the better, since those efforts in the past have actually done more harm than good ie public housing, urban renewal, highway construction, etc.
I would support a new urban renewal-esque program only if it was headed by reformers from the government, business, planning professions rather than the elites of our society, as was the case with the first urban renewal project. That probably won’t happen though, so our best bet is local (maybe state) initiatives.

posted by: Jack on February 23, 2011  3:46pm

@Robn:  Upper Chapel had the green, Yale, and was a natural extension of downtown. Anytime a neighborhood is “improved” with flips, it just creates displacement anyway.  It is a way of just shifting the problem around.  These “pioneers” are just gentrifiers willing to put their families at risk while they wait for all the white hipsters to move in. How many renters and section 8 folks are going to buy one of those homes?

posted by: Jim Paley on February 23, 2011  3:58pm

Jack:  Our homebuyers are almost always renters and many are currently Section 8 voucher holders.  We have successfully worked with the New Haven Housing Authority on their voucher homeownership program where Section 8 recipients are able to apply their vouchers to their mortgage payments.  We do not expect to see gentrification in the areas we are targeting for revitalization.

posted by: Jack on February 23, 2011  4:12pm

Jim, Are you serious?  I would not move my son to the Ville even if it saved me 200,000 on a home.  Have you looked at the crime log for that area?  It makes Fairhaven and the Hill look like paradise. I dare you to sit out on one of your porches for a while on a Friday night in the Spring/Summer.
What are the “great many strengths” that can provide long-term benefits?!  It’s certainly not the schools, safety, cleanliness…

posted by: Jim Paley on February 23, 2011  5:44pm

Jack: We are well aware of the challenges that we are facing in Newhallville.  I cringe when I read some of the stories in the newspaper and hold my breath when there’s word of another shooting.  That’s why our focus now is just as much on community engagement as it is on rehabbing the houses.  We are all too aware that rehabbed houses alone will not solve Newhallville’s problems.  Homeownership will help, but that, too, will not be enough.  We are trusting in a comprehensive strategy that makes extensive use of resident engagement, coupled with homeownership and reinvestment.  We are well aware of the magnitude of the challenge…but there are many good people who are really committed to change in this neighborhood. We are not willing to give up on this challenge.

posted by: Mike on February 23, 2011  6:33pm

Imagine what would happen if everyone ignored the neighborhood and just let it keep going downhill. Not a pretty picture at all.

posted by: Jack on February 23, 2011  9:13pm

Oh it makes sense now.  I thought you were trying to get actual home buyers to move into these houses.  I did not realize that taxpayers were actually making almost a 1/3 of the mortgage payments for up to 15 years, (as long as, and only if, they stay poor).  How can HANH call this a self sufficiency program?

I’m still waiting to hear what the “great many ststrengthsof Newhallville are.

posted by: Jim Paley on February 23, 2011  9:53pm

Mike:  You are exactly right.  And, unfortunately, Newhallville has been neglected for too long.  You can’t succeed at something if you don’t try…and that is precisely what NHS of New Haven is doing.

posted by: Jim Paley on February 24, 2011  10:31am

Jack: You are entitled to your feelings about the Section 8 program, which you can discuss with the Housing Authority if you wish.  But disparaging these homeowners by implying that they are not “actual homeowners” is not fair to the working families who are responsible homeowners in their communities.  You may not support the use of taxpayer dollars to assist low-income families who are purchasing homes, but did you ever consider the fact that the largest housing subsidy of all is the tax deductibility of mortgage interest and real estate taxes from one’s federal taxes?  And this deduction mostly benefits middle and upper income families.

Finally, the greatest strength of Newhallville right now is the presence of many fine people who live there and who aspire to the same quality of life that you do.

posted by: jack on March 2, 2011  6:25pm

How is a tax deduction the same as tax payers fronting the cash for the actual mortgage payments?
It’s dangerous to put people in homes that they could otherwise not afford.  Especially if it means that they must stay poor in order to continue to have others pay for a portion of their home.

posted by: Jim Paley on March 3, 2011  11:00am

Jack: Money not received by the government is equivalent to money spent by the government.  If you don’t receive $100 that you were expecting, it has the same effect on you as if you had spent $100 on something…either way, you’re down $100.  Tax deductions deprive the government of tax revenue, which is the same as if the government had spent an equivalent amount on something.  It’s the same reason that tax cuts add to the federal deficit.

I don’t think it’s fair to assume that people who at one point receive a subsidy will always remain poor.