Neighborhoods Get Housing Boost From State

Markeshia Ricks PhotoIf you’ve ever been stopped at the long light at the intersection of Winchester and Bassett in Newhallville, you likely noticed a yellow house that was once so blighted that it hurt to look at it.

Thanks to the work of not-for-profit Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven Inc. (NHS), it no longer hurts to look at it. The house received a cosmetic improvement, but will one day be as beautiful on the inside as it is outside.

An infusion of new state money is on the way to helping the whole house look better, too, along with 16 others that NHS will be able to rehab in Newhallville, Dwight and the Hill.

NHS will be getting $1.75 million from the state to rehab homes like the yellow one on Winchester Avenue, and help people become first- time homeowners and reduce neighborhood blight. The homes will be sold to homeowners earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

Before getting the new money, NHS undertook a rehab of the yellow house’s facade so that people wouldn’t have to stare at the blighted building while sitting at the traffic light, said Executive Director Jim Paley (pictured). Now it can finish the job by redoing the entire home and finding a homeowner to live there and rent out an apartment.

“Without this grant, there is no question that we could not do what we do,” Paley said.

The money comes from the state Department of Housing’s Affordable Homeownership. NHS is one of three New Haven entities to receive funding. The other two recipients are Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven Inc. and city government’s Neighborhood Renewal program.

Habitat for Humanity will receive $525,000 toward the construction of six new, single-family homes in the Hill North neighborhood and one rehab of a historic property in Fairhaven Heights. The homes, which will be constructed on infill lots, will create homeownership opportunities for seven families and individuals at or below 60 percent of the area median income once they are complete.

The city’s Neighborhood Renewal program will receive nearly $2.5 million to augment its housing development subsidies for homes in the Newhallville, Dixwell and West Rock neighborhoods. Aimed at increasing homeownership rates in areas that have extremely high rental housing stock and decreasing utility costs by building energy efficient homes, the program will be used to leverage other partnerships to create 23 new homes.

“We want to do the worst houses and then work with the owner occupants of homes that are in better shape, because it motivates others to feel good about their property,” Paley said during a recent tour of several NHS homes in Newhallville that have either been renovated, are in progress, or are on the list to be made over.

NHS is already at work on transforming this single-family, Bassett Street house, for instance.

The organization typically takes on a cluster of blighted and ramshackle houses in a neighborhood, guts the insides, makes them structurally sound and turns them into places that people are proud to call home. The quality of NHS’s work has become so well known that people often inquire about the signature light posts in front of their rehabbed homes, and want them for their yards.

But such complete overhauls, which insure that new, first-time homeowners don’t also take on a mortgage and lots of repairs, cost a lot of money, Paley said.

“Increasing the opportunities for individuals to become homeowners will be invaluable to those not only of modest means but to the growth of New Haven as a whole,” State Sen. Gary Winfield said in a statement about the three housing grants.

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posted by: wendy1 on July 17, 2015  1:34pm

I tried to work with this group…they are only interested in small projects while we need housing for over a thousand homeless NOW.  The city is fill of empty apts., land, and viable buildings made of stone or brick which could house our existing homeless NOW.  The white middle class people running these non-profits could do much more but prefer to rest on their laurels while men and women of all descriptions sleep in the dirt.

posted by: Bradley on July 17, 2015  4:48pm

Wendy, given the reality of the homelessness problem, how do you propose to pay for the property acquisitions and renovations you are proposing?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 17, 2015  5:45pm

NHS’s mission is to help stabilize neighborhoods that are currently in a state of decline. Their major stabilizing effort relies on acquiring the most distressed housing stock in these neighborhoods, rehabilitating those properties to historic standards (Secretary of the Interior standards), help low- and moderate-income families purchase those properties, and finally to counsel those families on how to manage mortgage payments, perform routine home maintenance, and be good landlords as most of the properties include a rental unit.

NHS is able to do this work thanks to various State (and Federal?) tax and grant programs that subsidize affordable housing development and historic preservation work.

As per Wendy’s comment, I don’t see how:

1) providing homeless housing in neighborhoods currently in a state of decline would help stabilize either the neighborhood or the homeless individuals and families

2) a project to rehabilitate distressed houses for homeless people would be financed under existing government programs

Are there any existing state programs that provide grants for developing homeless housing in Connecticut? Would the homeless individuals and families pay rent? Would they own the homes? Would they be on or off the city’s grandlist ie would property taxes be paid on the properties? If yes, then who pays? If no, then would the properties qualify for PILOT payments from the State?

It’s my opinion, that homeless services, including housing, should not be located in high poverty areas that lack adequate access to jobs.

Assuming that NHS would even be interested in a project like that (which I don’t think they would be since their mission is to stabilize neighborhoods through promoting low- and moderate-income home-ownership and physical beautification), could they do so with their existing organization? Would they have to create a new department? Where is that money going to come from to expand?

Frankly, I find your attack on NHS rather bizarre.

posted by: Nadine H on July 17, 2015  10:37pm

Wendy as someone who directly benefited from this group when I brought my home from them 12 years ago, their mission is to promote homeownership for low to middle income families not tackle homelessness. To do what you are proposing would require rehabs of existing apartments or apartment buildings and that is not what they do. Agree with Bradley on his point of how exactly would you pay for what you are proposing as the subsidies required to do this would be extreme? It’s a good idea but how would you pay for it???

posted by: mikewestpark on July 18, 2015  12:08pm

@ Wendy. At least the “white middle class people running these non profits” are doing something.  How many homes did you rebuild for low income earners?  (and I don’t mean the occasional volunteer at habitat for humanity)  How many unused bedrooms, or couch spaces in your own home have you let out so the homeless don’t have to “sleep in dirt”?  You are pretty good at telling everyone how to spend their money and tax funds but I wonder what real sacrifices (besides talk and demagoguery) you have actually made that had a positive outcome in the areas you often get on your soap box for.

posted by: Pat Wallace on July 18, 2015  4:55pm

I share Wendy’s passion to get people off the street, but NHS helps to keep people from ending up in the street through their foreclosure prevention work.  They also do good work that helps families get stabilized and stay that way.  My family was able to buy a home years ago with help from them and Rueben Taylor of the Urban League. NHS helped our neighborhood, at the request of our block group by taking a blighted, boarded-up building that was vacant for a dozen years and turning it into a decent, attractive place.  Having been robbed at gunpoint at that corner, I appreciated it.  We need both the organizations that assist homeless people and those that help create affordable rental and ownership housing for low and moderate-income neighborhoods in ways that make a real difference in neighborhoods.  Families need good neighborhoods as well as a place to live.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 18, 2015  6:38pm

People read this before you sign.

The Money Pit: The Untold Secret of Home Ownership

I will now reveal to you, my dear readers, the secret about owning a home that no one in the whole freaking world will tell you: IT IS COMPLETE AND TOTAL BUNK. It does not make you any money. It will always cost you money. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Rent vs. mortgage: Okay, we all know that you pay a crapload of interest on your mortgage, and you pay it up front. You do not pay interest on rent. If you buy a house for $205,000 and had no interest and a monthly payment of $1200, you would pay off your home in 171 payments (14.24 years). But that doesn’t happen. Instead, following the strictures of my own home loan, you pay $1200 bucks a month for 30 years at a fixed rate of interest. That’s an extra 16 years of payments, for a total of $230,400 that you pay over and above your principal. That means you’re paying $435,400 to own your home in 30 years. At that rate, it has to more than double in value just for you to BREAK EVEN.

And we also have the delightful surprise known as property tax. My property tax is about $3,000/year. Some urban areas run as much as $10,000/year and rural areas as low as $800/year.

feel free to read the rest.

More Americans Are Preferring the Lease to the Mortgage

11 Reasons Why I Never Want To Own A House Again

The mortgage interest deduction doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re still paying a lot of interest

Read the rest.

posted by: Hill South on July 19, 2015  11:29pm

I really don’t consider all the homes NHS has renovated in the Frank St, Lilac St, Winchester Av, the Blvd, Sherman Available, at costs of over $400-500k and sold them for affordable prices to first time homebuyers (after providing courses in homeownership and financial fitness at no cost, and home maintenance and small repair training at no cost) to be small projects. Just ask the many owners of these homes (like myself) to whom home ownership of such beautiful homes would NOT have been possible had it NOT been for the investment in and commitment to New Haven. It is easy to tell someone what to do with their money and their resources. Much more difficult to come up with a viable plan and develop your own resources. NHS has a diverse Board of Directors ... not all white and middle class, and I as a black female who lives in the Hill am honored to sit on that board. Now as far as renting versus buying, homeownership may NOat be for everyone. But for those who want to invest and own, this is what we do. And since we may not have the full purchase price up front, we finance, and when you finance you pay interest for using someone else’s money. But don’t knock it if it’s not for you. I love owning my own home ... painting walls whatever color I want, having a home garden, doing MY thing! That’s what I want and I am working it. It may not work for you but that doesn’t make it a bad thing! My goodness ... can’t we just celebrate the good that some do. Don’t be haters. Sheeeesh!!!!

posted by: David Sepulveda on July 20, 2015  10:38am

With revitalized homes,comes revitalized neighborhoods, revitalized hope and many realizing a part of the American dream that might not have been possible, but for the work of Neighborhood Housing Services. The proof NHS success is not only evident in the faces and embraces of those who have reversed flight trends in some of our most challenged neighborhoods, but in the rash of real estate investors moving in to capitalize on the revitalization progress of NHS. One can argue whether the latter is desirable, but for every house that is rehabilitated, the neighborhood is strengthened and by extension, the entire city benefits. Having toured many of these homes recently and met some of the new homeowners, the work of NHS has yielded incalculable benefits to people and families. Talk of the folks at NHS “resting on their laurels"is ill informed rhetoric.  It would, nevertheless, be a well-deserved rest after 35 years of laboring in the housing trenches.  That they continue to press on with their mission is commendable on every conceivable level. Meet some of the new homeowners in my recent article of a tour of rehabilitated homes in Newhallville given by NHS:

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 20, 2015  1:40pm

My point is that in this day and time houses are
money pits.In fact about 5.4 million homes are still upside-down on their mortgages and 10 percent of homeowners are still stuck in homes for which they owe more than the property is worth. A recent report from Zillow suggests that in some areas, negative equity is actually deepening. According to the report, despite home values climbing 6 percent in 2014, negative equity deepened in 21 of the top 50 metropolitan areas during the last quarter of 2014. Look at what happen to people in Prince George’s County.

I wonder on this block how many homes are underwater? I am a Homeowner and can not wait to get a suck to buy my houses and I have more then one.

My bad I forgot Do not forget the weapon call eminent domain.

posted by: nhs_ofnewhaven on July 21, 2015  10:59am

Dear Threefifths,

You have a long history of being critical of Neighborhood Housing Services and the work we do in New Haven. I would like to invite you to meet with me so that we can have a face-to-face discussion that will, of course, allow you to embellish on your perspectives, and will also give me an opportunity to clearly elaborate on NHS’ mission and the rationale for our work promoting homeownership, particularly in the context of our comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy.

Please call me at (203) 562-0598 ext. 214 or email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I look forward to meeting you.

Jim Paley

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 21, 2015  12:41pm

posted by: nhs_ofnewhaven on July 21, 2015 10:59am

Dear Threefifths,

You have a long history of being critical of Neighborhood Housing Services.

And what history is that.I have wrote maybe two things about Neighborhood Housing Services not a long history.Like I said.My point is in this day and time houses are money pits and they are.Now I do have a long history about being critical of Gentrification.