Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s commitment to affordable housing and state leadership is among the most promising in the nation. In February 2012, the Governor announced that he is substantially increasing the state’s commitment to affordable housing by adding more than $330 million to bolster affordable and supportive housing across the state. The proposal emphasizes the Governor’s vision of creating housing for low and moderate income residents as a driver of economic growth and making Connecticut a more vibrant place to work and live.
“For the past twenty years, the State of Connecticut has languished in its affordable housing commitments, not investing in this critical area that is needed to help individuals and families find stability and employment. It’s time we changed that approach and made Connecticut a better, more affordable place to live,” Governor Malloy said. “As many studies have shown, every dollar spent on affordable housing generates multiple times that amount in private economic activity. Housing is going to be a key component of our success to get Connecticut moving again.”
The package includes an increase of $30 million in bonding for each of the next ten years for public housing to bring deteriorated and vacant apartments back on line; an additional $20 million to increase affordable housing options; an additional $12.5 million in capital funding to re-invigorate the state’s elderly congregate housing; and an annualized $1.5 million for the Rental Assistance Program to support an additional 150 RAPs for scattered site supportive housing, which assists low-income families with securing affordable decent, safe and sanitary housing.
The $20 million for affordable housing adds to the $50 million authorized in the biennial budget which was split between the Connecticut Housing Trust Fund and the state’s FLEX Fund. The additional $20 million is committed to the FLEX Fund.
Governor Malloy is also proposing a reorganization of the state’s housing functions into a new State Office of Housing within the Department of Economic & Community Development to provide leadership and facilitate coordination consolidating a number of offices from several state agencies in order to strengthen the state’s structure and vision on housing initiatives.
Connecticut’s Housing Trust Fund was created in 2005 through passage of a law that authorized up to $20 million per year in state general obligation bonds for a cap of $100 million total. The Housing Trust fund is administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development. A Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee was formed to advise DECD on the administration, management and objectives of the Fund and on the development of regulations, procedures and rating criteria for the program. The Fund provides grants and loans to nonprofit entities, municipalities, housing authorities, and others.
A powerful illustration of the steps taken by the Connecticut Housing Coalition, the Partnership for Strong Communities, and other state afford-able housing advocates to build an understanding of how fundamental a safe affordable home is to a family and the community is the recent release of the Policy Brief: “Housing & Educational Success: Closely Connected,” by the Partnership for Strong Communities. The report introduces extensive research findings by framing it this way:
- A home, at its core, is shelter from the elements. A home is also security or, as Maya Angelou has told us, “the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
- But for children, their families and their future, a home is the foundation of opportunity. If it is affordable, of high quality and well-situated, a home can be the springboard to educational success and economic independence.
- If it is overcrowded, unaffordable, substandard and located in an overburdened school district and a community with few services, a home will provide little, if any, support.
The report points out that overall, housing quality, affordability and location can significantly impact school performance. Families who are homeless, or frequently move, may be forced to transfer their children from school to school in mid-year, increasing the likelihood of classroom and social difficulties. The report concludes that housing advocates need a dual strategy: enhance urban schools and create a wider array of safe, secure, affordable housing options close to transit and other vital services in cities. A comprehensive answer focuses on affordable homes and high-resource schools in both cities and suburbs so parents can choose the educational and community options that work best for their children’s particular needs. Not suburb, or city, but both.
The campaign in Connecticut has succeeded in bringing together housing advocates and service providers with others advocating for education, healthcare, transportation, seniors and youth. The combination of solid evidence and building alliances over many years has paid off in Connecticut with solid support from the Governor and other elected officials. As Betsy Crum, Executive Director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition has observed, “Our Governor has vision and the drive to bring housing to the front burner, and our housing industry is ready to come forward to support that vision. Solutions to our state’s housing needs will be devised ‘on the ground’ by small groups of dedicated people working across sectors to address common goals. Together, we must join our voices and our talents to respond to the opportunities presented by this budget.”