State and Local Partnerships Expand Affordable Housing Options in Connecticut

Filed in Affordability by on March 13, 2019 0 Comments

There is no easy solution to the housing affordability challenge, and neither the public nor the private sector can solve it alone. Partnerships can involve many different players — including land trusts, housing authorities and even employers — to win community support; assemble land, infrastructure, and financing streams; and provide ongoing social support services that create benefits and long-term successes for everyone involved.

Developing these partnerships at the state and local level are key to helping address the housing affordability crisis — a top priority identified by NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde for the year ahead. Together with other measures, such as comprehensive planning, flexible zoning and cost reductions, partnership strategies can unite key stakeholders in creating projects that address critical community needs.

A great example exists in Ugalde’s home state of Connecticut. Old Saybrook, Conn., is an affluent shoreline community of approximately 10,000, located in Middlesex County, on the west side of the Connecticut River. Of those residents, 70% of renters and 38% of homeowners currently spend more than 30% of their income on housing. There is a local need for more affordable homes closer to town center, services and transit connections.

Municipal land donation and remediation helped lower the cost of development for Ferry Crossing. Photo courtesy of Jim Fiora Studio.

Ferry Crossing was the first affordable housing development completed under the state’s Housing for Economic Growth program. The development — a joint venture project to create 16 affordable rental units — was created under a partnership between the Town of Old Saybrook, local nonprofit HOPE Partnership and regional nonprofit Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development (WIHED). The state’s Housing Connections of Connecticut program also helped with capacity building.

The apartments include one- to three-bedroom units that are affordable to households between 25% to 80% of area median income. Four units are targeted to families who are homeless, and two units are reserved for veterans.

Multiple sources helped to finance the planning and development of the project:

  • The Town of Old Saybrook donated the land to HOPE Partnership.
  • Connecticut’s Housing for Economic Growth (or the Incentive Housing Zone, IHZ, program), started in 2007 to support towns proactively seeking to diversify their housing options, provided capacity-building grants to engage in local planning and revise zoning to include IHZ overlays. Ferry Crossing was the first IHZ project completed in the state.
  • Liberty Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston (FHLB) supplied a $1 million loan, and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development granted the project $2.9 million. Liberty Bank also provided a $600,000 advance subsidized by the FHLB’s Affordable Housing Program.

The apartments are affordable to households between 25% to 80% of area median income. Photo courtesy of Jim Fiora Studio

“For about 30 years, there was very little funding to support affordable housing development in the state. But the kind of funding we have today has spurred a tremendous amount of growth and created a pipeline that did not exist in Connecticut. Without state money, so many of these homes would not be built,” shared Evonne M. Klein, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Housing.

Advance education and local advocacy also created goodwill for the project. HOPE Partnership’s initial strong outreach to the community on local housing needs meant that there was no public opposition when Ferry Crossing was being developed; rather, it was embraced by the community as a means to provide sufficient housing for local and future residents.

The success of the project has solidified the town’s commitment to proactively develop affordable housing in future projects.

Key Factors for Success:

  • IHZ program established to guide communities to proactively plan for affordable housing
  • Technical assistance from the Housing Connections of Connecticut program, a partnership between Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Connecticut Housing Coalition
  • Project financing from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Liberty Bank and the FHLB
  • Strong community support to meet housing needs for residents priced out of current supply of market-rate housing
  • Nonprofit advocacy organization to spearhead community engagement
  • Experienced nonprofit housing developer to secure financing and oversee construction
  • Municipal land donation and remediation to lower the cost of development

For more housing affordability resources, including the full case study on the Ferry Crossing development, visit nahb.org/housingforall and the Land Use 101 toolkit at nahb.org/lu101. The toolkit also includes access to the full report, How Did They Do It? Discovering New Opportunities for Affordable Housing.

Deborah L. Myerson, AICP — author of the How Did They Do It? Report — contributed to the content of this article. Myerson is an urban planner with 20 years of experience in housing, community development, land use and transportation policy, and urban revitalization.

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