State investing $55 million to revitalize old buildings, create affordable housing in cities

Ten vacant and deteriorated buildings in cities around Connecticut will soon be returned to residential use with the help of a $25 million state investment to create new affordable housing. Additionally, another $30 million will be invested in renovating long-neglected public housing sponsored by the state, the governor announced Thursday.


“For so many years we haven’t fixed our cities. We have a lot of vacant properties,” said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. He had just received news that the state will be spending millions in his city to bring life to some 125 residential units in three empty buildings. “None of these projects would be able to be done without this money.”

Vacant buildings in Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, Norwich and Guilford will receive funding, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday at the Capitol. These projects are projected to create 1,018 residential units, 367 of which will be affordable housing.

The state’s investment will stimulate about $238 million in private investment and federal funding for a total renovation expense of an estimated $263.5 million, officials said.

“Make no doubt about it, affordable housing is integral to stimulating economic development and growing jobs,” Malloy said when announcing which projects will receive funding this year. “Stable housing affects the quality of neighborhoods, the education of our kids, the health of our citizens and the opportunity for individuals and families to live in thriving communities. It also lowers crime.”


The former Bank of America office building, empty about a year in downtown Hartford, will be converted to residential housing with help from state and private investments.

Housing advocates have long said that there is not enough affordable housing in the state. A recent study by the Center for Housing Policy found that one in four households in Connecticut are struggling to pay housing costs and 137,000 families are spending at least half their income on their mortgage or rent. In the East Hartford-Hartford-West Hartford area, 19 percent of households spent at least 50 percent of their income on housing in 2010, the study found.

Of the  14,000 affordable-housing apartments currently financed by the state, an estimated 10 percent are badly deteriorated or uninhabitable. At Westbrook Village and Bowles Park, two adjacent low-rise projects in Hartford, about half the 770 units are vacant. At Vidal Court in Stamford, half the bleak mid-rise is dilapidated, while half has been demolished and rebuilt.

“You have properties in unacceptable conditions,” said Nick Lundgren, the director of housing at the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Last February, Malloy announced he would be spending $30 million a year for the next 10 years to renovate the state-run properties.

On Thursday, he named the first round of 1,257 units set to be renovated this year.


Record-high state spending for affordable housing construction projects

The largest among them is the 770-unit Westbrook-Bowles project in Hartford; the smallest, an 18-unit rental property named Kugeman Village in Cornwall.

“We are making the largest commitment to affordable housing in our state in decades,” said Malloy.

In all this fiscal year, the state is expected to allocate a total $80 million for the construction and renovation of affordable housing projects. The administration received dozens of applications for this new funding and is already scheduled to award $25 million for aditional projects in February and June 2013.

The most the state has spent on housing since 1991 is $55 million.

This lackluster investment has created “pent up demand,” Finch said.

Catherine Smith, the commissioner of the DECD, said the projects in this new round are all ready to go.

“It’s about shovel-ready projects that are really ready to go so we can get the housing done quickly,” she said. “These are great projects.”