Building Affordable Housing and Stabilizing Neighborhoods
|A family receives a new home. Photo credit: Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven.
Building Affordable Housing and Stabilizing Neighborhoods Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven has a long history of reversing blight and stabilizing neighborhoods as it builds and renovates homes for low-income families. Its work has focused on people with specific barriers, including veterans and people with histories of incarceration. In a recent trend, it is also providing home ownership opportunities to Greater New Haven’s newest residents.
The nonprofit has seen increasing numbers of applications coming from refugees, who now comprise 30 percent of its homeownership program. The organization attributes the increase, in part, to its strong partnership with IRIS, the New Haven-based refugee agency. While a majority of refugee applicants to Habitat are from African nations, an increasing number are from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven was formed in 1986 by a group of New Haven community leaders who felt compelled to address the high level of poverty housing and blight in specific neighborhoods. They have since built or renovated over 126 homes in New Haven and Hamden neighborhoods including The Hill, Dixwell and Fair Haven.
Applicants must demonstrate their need by showing that their current housing is unsafe or in very poor conditions and that their rent payments exceed 35% of their net income. The family must also have good credit, commit sweat equity into the project and complete a formal application and interview process.
A team of volunteers works side-by-side with the homeowners-to-be during all phases of each construction project. When a home is finished and the new owners move in, the neighborhood gains both an improved property and a stable family.
“We try to put our homes in places where there is one bad house or vacant lot, or we will take a bad block and try to buy and rehab as many houses as we can,” says Executive Director William Casey. “That way it’s a stabilizing influence on the neighborhood. And when our homeowners are close to each other, they can support each other.”
Habitat homes come with a 25-year, zero percent interest mortgage. The average mortgage, including taxes and insurance, is $700 a month, which is far below the average rental price anywhere in New Haven County. Because Habitat is the mortgage holder, every mortgage dollar that is sent back to the organization is funding that will be used to build another Habitat home.
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is a longtime funder of Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven. During the term of a recently awarded $25,000 grant, Habitat built seven homes in New Haven and Hamden and additional property was acquired to build or rehab another five homes. The organization also worked with staff members at the V.A. Hospital in West Haven to promote the program to veterans and engaged 2,700 individuals in volunteerism.
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven, visit its profile on giveGreater.org.
Did you know?
The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit in New Haven is $1,672. Source: Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven.
This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.