New Haven to boost housing, youth engagement and more with $53 million in federal funds

NEW HAVEN — There is an urgent need for housing and housing assistance in the city, but city leaders have failed to meet that need, according to an activist group made up mostly of migrant women from the city.

But during his face-to-face meeting with Mayor Justin Elicker on Wednesday, the mayor told organizers with Sisters in Diaspora that he got their message. The city announced its Phase 3 proposal on how to spend $53 million of its $115 million allocation from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act – housing and real estate programs should get a shot of $14 million.

To date, approximately $38 million in ARPA funding has already been spent on city programs, leaving approximately $24.5 million in unallocated spending should the mayor’s latest spending proposals be approved by the Board of Alders.

The city’s economic development administrator, Michael Piscitelli, told a press conference in James Hillhouse High School’s car service lab – with the garage door up – that the next phase of spending would be concentrated on five broad areas: youth engagement and early childhood, home ownership. and housing assistance, intergenerational wealth creation, career path initiatives in vocational and technical education, and response to climate emergencies.

“Step by step, our city is moving forward,” Elicker said. “Today is a huge leap forward.”

The city’s “I’m Home” initiatives are expected to receive a funding allocation of approximately $10 million; included in this cost analysis supports a fund to provide down payment and closing cost assistance for residents to acquire or develop single or two-family homes.

Ed Randall, a recent new homeowner in the Newhallville neighborhood thanks in part to a Livable Cities Initiative program, said home ownership is “a beautiful thing” that also inspires a sense of community and civic pride.

“I’m going to be out there raking the leaves and cleaning out the trash cans,” he said.

The city will also use a portion of this $10 million allocation to support its Fair Housing Fund which will support the work of the Fair Rent Commission and on rental assistance to offset the cost of housing for families in low income who are not currently receiving state or federal housing. assistance

There is also a planned allocation of $4 million for the creation of a land bank in New Haven. Piscitelli said the creation of such a fund would incentivize the city to act more quickly in the market “to buy and hold key real estate investments”, which he says are not limited to commercial or residential properties, before these properties are purchased by mega-owners who are not bound by the same approval process as the municipal government.

In fiscal 2020, Piscitelli said, the city passed the point where more than 50% of city households are paying more than 30% of their monthly income in rent; therefore, he said, the city needs to develop more affordable housing units.

Camila Guiza-Chavez, a representative of Sisters in Diaspora, said the group made two proposals to the city on how to spend ARPA funding for housing: a $500 grant for all families registered on the public housing waiting list and a buy-back program for homes purchased by some of the city’s largest landlord corporations to establish more affordable housing.

After speaking with Elicker, representatives of the Sisters in the Diaspora reacted hesitantly, especially as they found red tape and government bureaucracy to be a barrier to residents getting the help they needed in the first months of the pandemic.

“It remains to be seen if this reaches the families,” Guiza-Chavez said.

Sisters in Diaspora organizer Hala Ghali said many families needed housing and rental assistance, and $14 million would not be enough to cover them.

“There are so many people in need right now,” Elicker said, and the city is trying to balance those needs.

Two other major focus areas have a proposed $10 million allocated to develop or sustain them: youth engagement and wealth development.

Gwen Busch-Williams, director of the New Haven Department of Youth and Recreation, said funding for youth programs will help “build resilience” in young people. She said that with the help of an advance allocation of federal pandemic money, the city was able to put in place a comprehensive summer jobs program for young people for the first time, allowing young people to earn minimum wage for 30 hours a week, giving them a degree of financial independence and relevant job skills.

“We are all struggling, and it still takes a village to raise our children,” she said.

The city considered a small business fund and an economic resilience fund for a $10 million allocation to support community wealth creation.

The economic resilience fund should support more “mature businesses”, Piscitelli said, to support the recovery and competitiveness of existing businesses, while the small business fund would support small businesses with a focus on businesses owned by blacks and Latinos as the pandemic has had a disproportionate negative impact on black and brown wealth.

An allocation of $5 million is proposed for climate proposals, which city officials say would be used for programs that reduce carbon emissions and cut costs, such as energy efficiency measures for homeowners low to moderate income.

Kai Addae, a member of the Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force, said the pledge will benefit the city in meeting the Board of Alders’ set goal of achieving net-zero community carbon emissions by 2030.

“Residential electricity consumption accounts for almost 40% of the city’s carbon emissions,” Addae said. “It makes residents’ homes safer and more energy efficient.”

The city has also offered $8 million for the development of vocational and technical career paths for students and plans to expand its partnership with Gateway Community College.

“It could be a new school or an expansion within a school,” Elicker said. “I think we will need the support of our state delegation.” Piscitelli said the city is “working closely” with the Board of Education to seek funding support for vo-tech’s proposed expansion, including a New Haven Public Schools Task Force.

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