A plan to develop housing on 4.3 vacant acres along Route 34 moved forward Thursday night, but not before a longtime neighborhood leader criticized a turn away from promoting homeownership.
The plan calls for building 56 affordable rental apartments in 11 buildings and an office meeting center on a site at 16 Miller St., which is bound by Ella T. Grasso Boulevard to the west, North Frontage Road to the north, Tyler Street to the east, and Legion Avenue to the south.
The City Plan Commission voted Thursday night to approve a site plan and a coastal for the project, whose developers are rushing to meet a deadline to qualify for state funding. With the exception of a prominent dissent from neighborhood organizer Stacy Spell, the plan drew a crowd of supporters to the hearing.
West River residents have been trying for decades to breathe new life along the vacant media strip there since bulldozers destroyed the neighborhood during Urban Renewal to make way for a highway that was never built.
But until recently those efforts have focused on homeownership, not rentals, which prompted Spell to urge the commissioners not to approve the site plan.
West River Housing LLC is developing the project. It consists of a partnership put together with the help of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative (LCI) that is spearheading the development. It consists of two groups: The New Haven-based West River Self Help Investment Plan (SHIP) and New-York based National Housing Partnership Foundation, a not-for-profit developer of low and moderate income housing in 15 states and Washington D.C. The NHP Foundation has a portfolio of approximately 7,000 units of multifamily rental housing, according to documents provided to the city.
LCI chief Serena Neal-Sanjurjo said it makes sense to go with this plan, even though it does not include homeownership, in part because it has the best chance of obtaining state money and actually happen. LCI and the partnership have been shopping the plan to the neighborhood for two years.
Spell, a retired cop who continues organizing neighborhood campaigns, was unable to attend the meeting in person Thursday evening because he is home recovering from a recent back surgery. He sent in a letter stating that he supports West River SHIP’s “visionary goals” but not the proposed project.
In the letter, he called for building a mixed-use development in the corridor that includes opportunities for homeownership and entrepreneurship — the original vision for the redevelopment of Route 34.
“This group of long-term residents who I have co-labored with, in past decades where our goal then was to create on that site mixed-use housing encompassing market rate homeownership, workforce affordable units, and retail spaces,” Spell wrote. “This current project has strayed from the visionary path and in my opinion, sets the foundation for a future problem.”
Spell noted in the letter that he was troubled by the decision to use an out of town company to manage the property once it’s built, which he said has met with less than positive results in other notable projects in the city. He went on to applaud the proposed project’s plans to use green infrastructure but blasted what he saw as a deficiency in dealing with traffic around the site and the overall disconnectedness of West River and Hill North.
“We have one chance to get this more than 50-year-old mistake right and come to an agreeable solution that speaks to all concerns,” Spell wrote. “I’m not looking for it to be my way or the highway but to move forward prudently, logically and respectfully. This is within a stone’s throw away from my home and will affect the only wealth I will be able to pass on to my children. I speak for elderly neighbors who still reside on Miller, Porter, and Parmalee who’ve not been involved in the process. Please be prudently cautious in giving approval to a process that hasn’t been well thought out.”
The project’s 56 units will be contained in 10 townhouse-style buildings with four or six apartments per building. Four apartments will be contained in the office meeting center. Vehicle access is proposed from North Frontage and Legion Avenue with a 60 car parking lot. The project also has to have room for the International Peace Garden, which must remain on site in perpetuity.
Dawson: Needs Have Changed
Another longtime neighborhood leader, Anthony Dawson, is the president of the West River SHIP, which is the smaller of the development partnership’s two members.
Dawson said the vision for the project has changed as the needs of the community have changed. He said there is a more urgent need for safe and affordable rental housing than people in a position to buy homes. He said NHP Foundation operates a residential and social services division that will help residents of the new housing to position themselves to eventually buy homes.
The partnership’s two organizations were brought together, with the blessing of LCI, through a request for qualifications process in which West River SHIP also considered the Housing Authority of New Haven as a potential partner. Dawson said West River SHIP ultimately went with NHP Foundation because they thought they could learn more about development from the organization in the long run.
The estimated cost of constructing the project is about $14 million. But construction is contingent upon receiving federal low-income housing tax credits and other funding by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA).
Dawson, along with Neal-Sanjurjo and NHP Foundation representative Jamie Smarr, defended the proposed project to the commissioners Thursday night. They pointed out that this plan has been before the community for two years. With the commissioners’ approval, an application could be in CHFA’s hands by a Oct. 1 deadline, they said. To put the project before CHFA, it essentially had to have community buy-in, support from the city, and be shovel-ready.
That meant the project couldn’t need zoning changes, which might delay the application. The parcel falls under RM-1 and RM-2 zoning designation, which don’t allow for commercial uses. Should CHFA approve the project, the city would begin the process of entering into a land disposition agreement with West River Housing, that would set the conditions of transferring the land so that construction could begin, according to City Plan Director Mike Piscitelli.
Project Architect Ken Boroson estimated that it would take CHFA about five months to decide whether to give the application the green light, the developers and the city would close on the property after that and construction could begin in Fall 2019 with a potential occupancy by 2020.
“This project in November will be about two years old, so we’ve put a lot of thoughtful consideration in working with West River SHIP as well as the community to come up with something that could really start the process for redevelopment of Route 34 corridor and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Neal-Sanjurjo said.
She said other phases of the corridor redevelopment, which are part of the ongoing work of the Hill to Downtown development plan, will include homeownership but on a different parcel in the corridor.
“This is all based on the work we did, the continuation of the Hill to Downtown plan and transforming that community and trying to really bring back a neighborhood that was lost 50 years ago,” she said. “It is a necessity for us as a city right now to look at additional units. And that’s what we’re trying to do—mix it up, make it better and try to fill in the parcels that we can.”
NHP Foundation’s Jamie Smarr pushed back against Spell’s assertion that the controlling organization is an “out of town operator.” He said the foundation already operates 900 units of low and moderate-income housing in the state, specifically in Waterbury, Wolcott, Stamford, and Southington. He also noted that the properties are all managed onsite by a management company called Beacon Communities (which manages New Haven developments like Monterey Place).
“We’re not a fly-by-night organization,” he said.
Commissioners were receptive to the need for the change to the original vision, but they shared Spell’s concerns about the ongoing problem of traffic and asked the developers to commit to working closely with the city to shore up safety for those residents, presumably some of which will be children.
Dawson, who doubles as the chair of the city’s Traffic Authority, promised that that authority will work with the developers to address the concerns.
City Plan Commissioner and Westville Alder Adam Marchand also noted that Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker, who represents the West River, supports West River SHIP’s plan for development.
I am usually all for development but as per this story we need federal grants and state grants to build this and then the rents will be kept below market (which will require government intervention) - - and in the small print, they expect the renters to receive ‘utility allowances’. So, this would be created and run on the backs of the taxpayer. Connecticut - and New Haven - need to move away from this way of thinking. We will never fix the problem of the young and middle class leaving if we continue to shake them down every year.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 21, 2018 8:22am
Again.Snake-Oil and Three Card Monte being sold to the people by sell out Judas Goat Leaders.Notice it says A breakdown of the 56 units and their anticipated rents.Trust me.The rents will be more market rate.
When affluent people compete with poor people for a scarce supply of housing, guess what happens? Home prices and rents go up, and the poor are pushed out. In a nutshell, that’s the formula that fuels gentrification
It’s more about subtracting every single buck. Gentrification and the need for developers to maximize their profits it’s superficial sleaziness. Derek Ridgers
We are taking one step forward and two steps back as gentrification in some neighborhoods and continued deterioration in others leads to the removal of vitally needed lower-cost rental housing. (Nicolas Retsinas)
“Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.” ― Sarah Kendzior,
In the twenty-first century, the visions of J.C. Nichols and Walt Disney have come full circle and joined. “Neighborhoods” are increasingly “developments,” corporate theme parks. But corporations aren’t interested in the messy ebb and flow of humanity. They want stability and predictable rates of return.That’s what our new landlords are thinking even if they are not saying it. Tanner Colby,
Lookout: More importantly for New Haveners, the developers are asking for a 17 year property tax abatement. As I understand it, the abatement means that, like the Ninth Square Residences, this development will contribute nothing to the city in return for the services the residents will require. (I am unclear if the abatement is to cover the office space as well as the residences.). The mayor and others often complain that too much of the city’s Grand List is exempt, and that the city houses more than its share of impoverished folks. Yet, it continues to take measures that suppress its Grand List and which increase the number of poor people living in New Haven. The result, of course, is that property taxes paid by other property owners will increase to cover the cost of services required by the residents of this complex, Ninth Square, etc.
posted by: opin1 on September 21, 2018 9:20am
Would this development pay full property taxes? would there be any phase-in? Its my understanding that if the project will be owned by the housing authority it wouldn’t pay property taxes. But it looks like this will be owned by a non-profit developer (West River Housing LLC), so it would pay full property taxes.
“On Aug. 29, a New York City-based developer called the NHP Foundation submitted an application to the city for a 17-year tax abatement agreement to build the new townhouse rentals “
In my opinion 17 years is too long for New Haven taxpayers to be subidizing a project on highly desireable land that could easily be taxable. 5 to 7 years sounds reasonable. but 17?! We really can’t keep giving away these long term tax abatements and then blame the state when we don’t have enough money in our budget. For 17 years the other taxpayers in New Haven will be footing the bill for the NHP Foundation. Doesn’t sound fair to me.
posted by: wendy1 on September 21, 2018 10:21am
More corruption, greed, and crap architecture. At night the streets are full of homeless young people and I despair. I was out seeing Fahrenheit 11/9 at the Criterion. Go see it and weep for our lost “democracy”——Prof. Snyder from Yale is in it.
posted by: LookOut on September 21, 2018 11:01am
1644 and opin1: Thank you for the clarification….so on top of taxpayers funding the construction and funding a scheme to keep suppress the revenue (keeping rates below market), taxpayers are also asked to fund a 17 year tax break?!? Obviously, this group is well connected to the current mayor and governor if they have the guts to ask for all of this. The answer is to have turnover in in Hartford and at City Hall.
posted by: opin1 on September 21, 2018 11:39am
@Lookout, I’m ok with using federal and state taxpayer money to subsidize affordable housing, because I think there needs to be adequate affordable housing. I don’t think we should be subidizing affordable housing at the local level. NEW HAVEN TAXPAYERS SHOULD NOT BE SUBSIDIZING AFFORDABLE HOUSING THROUGH PROPERTY TAXES OR PROPERTY TAX ABATEMENTS. Completely unfair.
I also think affordable housing needs to be spread out so some of it is in suburban towns (not only in New Haven, Waterbury, Bridgeport, etc).
I would be in favor of this development if they got rid of the property tax abatement.
posted by: __quinnchionn__ on September 21, 2018 11:59am
A recipe for disaster. The end.
posted by: bashman on September 21, 2018 12:07pm
@Lookout are you suggesting that the people that would live there will not be tax payers? You do realize that the poor and middle class pay more in taxes than the affluent. I help manage low income affordable housing, and the tenants that are able to, do work. They enjoy getting paid ever week or two weeks. Understand that low income is not the result of people not working , it is a result of low wages that why it is call low income, not no income.
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 21, 2018 12:48pm
Kick this project to the curb right now!
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 21, 2018 1:32pm
New Homeowners will never invest in a new neighborhood if they don’t have the opportunity too!
posted by: 1644 on September 21, 2018 3:12pm
Bash: Particularly in Connecticut, where food and some other essentials are sales tax free, the poor pay very little in taxes. A poor person pays FICA and medicare on his earnings, but will not only pay no income ax, but get a “refundable” credit through both the federal and state earned income tax credit. If a poor person rents tax-exempt housing, he pays no real property tax. If he relies on public transpiration, he pays no personal property tax and pays only about 20% of the actual cost of his transportation. The folks that get hammered are the middle income person: all or most of his income is subject to FICA and Medicare taxes, he pays property taxes on his house and car, income taxes to the federal and state government, with many credit being phased out and eliminated completely at about $100K. The wealthy person, on the other hand, may have substantial income above the FICA and Medicare limits, and a lot of income taxed at the lower capital gains rate.
posted by: bashman on September 21, 2018 3:28pm
@1644, tell me how does someone who works part-time and is getting paid $10.10 an hour owe in federal income tax? Please tell me that.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 21, 2018 3:30pm
Stacy Spell is a New Haven treasure. But nowhere in his letter did he identify how a homeownership program for low-income households would be financed. If you believe that the state and city should subsidize low-income housing (and, clearly, many people don’t, at least at this location), you need to figure a way of paying for this.
posted by: JCFremont on September 21, 2018 4:31pm
Come on 17 years? Face it, the question, is under this type of plan by the time the developer/landlord begins to pay taxes what condition the buildings, the city and the real estate company be in 17 years? We have to stop long term you’d. @Wendy, when your partner and backers are governments you end up with bland structures and social areas that work great in the classrooms but not so much in the real world.
posted by: Dennis Serf on September 21, 2018 4:40pm
Another bad idea. We need more middle and upper income housing to build the tax base and support the large population of low income housing New Haven already has. Affordable Yes. Low Income No.
New Haven ought to have a moratorium on any new low income housing
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 21, 2018 5:12pm
1644, most low-income tenants live in taxable buildings. Without maligning landlords, I think it it is fair to assume they pass on property taxes to their tenants as part of the rent. Similarly, most low-income folks statewide (as distinct from those living in New Haven) are drivers. I haven’t seen any “poor people’s” pumps selling tax-exempt gas - have you? There are households that live in public housing and don’t drive, but they are a small part of the state’s poor.
The 2014 CT Department of Revenue Services tax incidence report (the last I could find) found that households with AGI between $5,500 and $16,250 spent nearly 27% of their AGI on state and property taxes. (There were data problems for households with AGIs below $5,500). In contrast, the middle decile had a tax burden of 14.7% of AGI. The state income tax became more progressive since the report came out, and the numbers have probably changed. But the idea that poor folks pay minimal property and state taxes is untenable. On the other hand, you’re right that the rich pay a substantially lower proportion of their income in these taxes (8.2% of AGI for the top decile).
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 21, 2018 6:44pm
Bash: They don’t owe federal, or state income tax, but they still get the earned income tax credit. The EITC serves as a wage subsidy for the working poor. It started under Nixon, in order to make working pay more than welfare. The idea now is that it refunds part of the FICA and Medicare taxes the poor pay, usually called “payroll” taxes. FICA, of course, taxes the first $130K or so at the same rate, rather than being progressive.
Kevin: We aren’t talking about “average” poor person. We are talking about the people who will live in this tax-exempt building. As for car taxes, they are pretty minimal, about $50/year for my 1995 Volkswagen. If they do drive, yes, they will pay fuel taxes, but very little of fuel tax goes to the city (town road aid). Most local roads are maintained by city property taxes. Sure, they will pay some minimal sales taxes, but the growing half of the cost of city services they use will be paid for by you and other New Haven property owners. Note: Your link seems to deal only with State taxes, and complete ignores federal taxes, which are far more progressive. As Romney famously said, 47% have zero income tax liability. You may
posted by: AverageTaxpayer on September 22, 2018 12:54am
HOW MANY ROUTE 34 PARCELS REMAIN?
Why is the City GIVING AWAY this very valuable 4.3 acres of land, FOR FREE, to a group that won’t even be paying property taxes? What a BOONDOGGLE for the politically connected.
This site is almost as large as the Coliseum site. It blows my mind that amidst the City’s budget issues, Team Harp wouldn’t be putting this parcel out to bid.
posted by: Gimp on September 22, 2018 1:00am
So I read the story, and thought here we go again, hype for ticky tacky clap board houses at $400,000 a pop, and some muckity muck at City Hall thinks they are a genius building them. Then I read a 17 year tax break. I then think a 17% tax hike next year. Then I think let’s do some research.
West River Housing LLC was organized on August 22, 2018, and has offices at 122 E42nd St, NYC. It’s agent is Cogency Global Inc of 53 Pamela Drive, Milford. It’s principals are WRHC Manager LLC of 122 E42nd St and West River Self Help Investment Plan LLC of 1324 Chapel Street here in NH. (This latter organization names a clergyman and two ladies from NH and Hamden as officers, and by all accounts looks very much above board to me).
Cogency Global Inc is registered at 10 E40th St NYC and has CN Search LLC, also of 53 Pamela Drive, Milford listed as agent, a Howard Wagner of Westbury NY as Treasurer, a Joan Wagner of the same address as Secretary, and A John Morrisey of Highland NJ as VP. Interestingly, this corporation has no listed President. Also, CONCORD states that there are more corporate officers, but they are not listed. Why not?
CNN Search LLC has a Nancy R Cooner of 1593 Boulevard, West Hartford listed as Agent, and a Jessika J Goetz of, you guessed it, 53 Pamela Drive, Milford listed as member.
WRHC Manager LLC, if you can remember them from previous paragraphs, was organized on August 21, 2018, so in the hierarchy of these transactions they can be considered a well established organization. Their management consists Cogency Global Inc as Agent, and The NHP Foundation as Member.
Now going forward to the NHP Foundation Inc, of 122 E42nd ST NYC, we have some further interesting information. Mecky Adnani is named as SVP, Jamie Smarr as SVP, and Kenneth D White as VP. Interestingly, there is no listed President, yet again, and even more interestingly, none of the above three give a home address, but just give their business address. Continued
posted by: Gimp on September 22, 2018 1:08am
The NHP Foundation Inc is also unusual in being incorporated. Foundations are usually registered as such, so there are liability issues that are being shielded. And their Agent is National Corporate Research Ltd of 53 Pamela Drive Milford. Familiar address?
So is this New Haven’s version of the PANAMA PAPERS, or just another whack job reader of the NHI doing what comes naturally?
Something is rotten in the House of Denmark.
posted by: dad101 on September 22, 2018 11:44am
Is it not obvious that until the Powers decied they could keep thier hands on this landit was not avaiable for anything. NOw that there is a push to do something with it they still wont allow ownership. When peole are vested ins omething MORE OFTEN than not they keep it up.New Haven is hell bent on renting away and there is always a subsidy attached becaseu it is a political favor to the developer under the guise of long term econmoic growth(all nonsense).If you have the money to build you build if you dont then move someone else who cna will but MONTEREY, ORANGE and CHAPEL ,AXION they all get subsidies then when time comes to pay up they fight the evaluation or leave then we the tax payers spend millions in attorney and legal costs only to still end up never getting the full benefit of what we put in. Lets build homes for working people that they can afford to take pride in. New Hall, Westville, HILL NORTH and SOUTH were all at one time more owner occupied than not and it reflected in how the communities ran and flourished… as they became rentals they lessened. Westville is the only remaining microcosm of the city that still reflects predominant homeowner ship but it is priced as such that the average working person in NEW HAVENS work force cant afford to buy there. Lets create more permanency for those who want to be here not for those who want to come here. Let Yale architects and habitat for humanity build affordable homes for existing NEW HAVENS( must have been living here minimum 5 to 10 years to purchase with a tax subsidy just like the developers are offered) to buy as owner occupied for a minimum of ten or fifteen years. That encourages people to build families and lives…
posted by: AverageTaxpayer on September 22, 2018 1:30pm
@ Gimp — So who the hell is the silent partner, whoops I mean silent President, in this deal?
Some names come to mind…
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 22, 2018 3:57pm
When all of the important questions go unanswered the ‘real truth’ behind this ‘enterprise’ becomes apparent.
So is the case with so many ‘research projects’ I have undertaken in this City .... under every rock that is overturned are two more! After you overturn all of the rocks, the rock at the bottom is the same rock you overturned at the start! Success!!!
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on September 22, 2018 5:45pm
1644, the tax burden data include local property as well as state taxes - I said this already. And federal taxes, including FICA and excise taxes as well as income taxes, are not all that progressive.
Forty-two of the 56 units are open to people with incomes of 50% of AMI or more.. For New Haven, 50% of AMI is nearly $46,000, i.e., working people as distinct from the very poor. People earning anywhere near this income pay plenty of taxes, as I am sure they would be happy to tell you.
posted by: Gimp on September 22, 2018 9:22pm
Correction. All the officers of NHP Foundation are listed on CONCORD, I just missed the button. It’s CEO is a Richard F Burns. It’s a bona fide organization, and appears to function primarily through and affiliate called Operation Pathways. It’s web site lists Beacon Properties and McCormack Barron as financial partners.
posted by: opin1 on September 22, 2018 10:06pm
It says the NHP Foundation applied for the 17-year tax abatement on August 29. Who is the person (or people) with the authority to grant or deny the application? Is this something the BOA will get to vote on? Is this something the NHI can answer? Taxpayers need to speak up and say No to this tax abatement!
I hope the developer gets all the federal and state aid they can, but New Haven residents should not be on the hook for subsidizing this development for 17 years while we are slashing our Education budget, receiving less and less PILOT, refinancing our debt, and having double digit tax increases. I want to hear Mayor Harp say if she thinks New Haven taxpayers should subsidize this for 17 years. Someone please ask her.
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 23, 2018 1:37am
Thanks for the research and the info!!!! That CONCORD site acts up some times as well…...
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 23, 2018 1:44am
Multi-Generational Housing Anxiety???? You can’t make this stuff up!!!! This can’t be a ‘real diagnosis’—the buzzword factory is at it again!!!!!!!
Kevin: Most people think they pay “plenty” in taxes. We can go round and round about the high excise taxes on booze and cigarettes, gasoline, versus the ACA capital gains surcharge and IRA phase-outs, but the only tax the city should be concerned about is the only tax it controls: the property tax. With a $30 million structural deficit, woefully underfunded pension plans, and huge bonded debt, the city needs revenue. This project will contribute zero revenue to city coffers for 17 years, and like Ninth Square, is likely to continue to ask for extension after extension. If New Haven is to survive and thrive, it needs a competitive mill rate. The only way to get that is, as Dennis says, bring middle and upper income people (and commerce and industry) to town. Right now, New Haven is benefiting from the desire of many young professionals to live downtown. It needs to maximize the revenue extracted from the current fashion, rather than slow it. These are the people New Haven needs to pay the ever growing cost of services and its unfunded liabilities. If it fails to focus on Grand List growth, the result will be more cuts to schools and other services combined with ever higher taxes, all of which will drive people with choices to nearby towns. The result will be a repeat of the decline of the 1960’s and 1970’s: rising mill rates chasing declining property values, which the rising mill rate causes, all as services decline.
At the end of the day, the city is not and should not be acting as a developer in any capacity. If New Haven wants to have development on the property, zone it appropriately, subdivide it, and sell the parcels. Same goes for any land the city is squatting on while they put their ducks in a row. The City doesn’t have the bandwidth or staff time available to shepherd all these projects to and through construction, and a process already exists for moving municipal-owned land into private ownership.