From our homes to our neighbors’ homes, we’ve overcome the novel challenges of this year to bring our services to the community and move forward together.
Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven strengthens neighborhoods by developing affordable housing and increasing homeownership opportunities; providing homebuyer education and financial coaching; making homes safe, beautiful and energy-efficient; and working to improve the perceptions of the neighborhoods in which we are working by helping residents take charge of their communities.
Message from Executive Director & Board President
When we wrote our report to the community last year, no one could have predicted that in less than a year we would be in the midst of the worst pandemic that the world has seen in the last hundred years. COVID-19 has redefined our way of life. We have strived to regain some sense of normalcy by conducting business as usual, even when our office was officially closed to the public.
With the assistance of the State Department of Housing and the Livable City Initiative, we have dramatically increased our affordable homeownership production and have continued to make a significant impact on our target neighborhoods. In just the past year, we have completed houses on Edgewood Avenue, Orchard Street, Winchester Avenue, Lilac Street, Newhall Street, Huntington Street, and Stevens Street, and are planning the next phase of our development activities with the rehabilitation and new construction of six additional houses in Newhallville.
Read our letter...
Our HomeOwnership Center is now providing its homebuyer education and financial counseling services virtually, and we have seen an increase in the number of participants who are interested in purchasing their first homes. Since COVID-19 has spawned a surge in unemployment, we fully anticipate an increase in the number of homeowners who contact our office in need of help in making their mortgage payments and averting foreclosure. We expect that this will be keeping us very busy in the months to come.
Our full-service real estate company, HOC Realty, has produced an 11% increase in activity by helping more buyers and sellers than in previous years. And HOC Lending will soon be making home-improvement loans available to homeowners who have deferred maintenance issues and who lack the resources to undertake repairs on their homes.
Our Department of Community Sustainability has been focusing on the I ♥︎ Heart My Home CT program, which provides residents with opportunities to undertake energy conservation measures that start saving them money immediately while reducing carbon emissions. Our Community Building and Organizing efforts have been slowed by the lack of interpersonal contact due to the coronavirus pandemic; however our staff have done an excellent job maintaining community contacts to ensure that confidence in our communities will be sustained.
We hope that you enjoy our digital annual report, as we are pleased to note considerable progress during these challenging and unpredictable times.
Affordable Real Estate Development
Our comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy begins with affordable real estate development.
The gut rehabilitation of uninhabitable properties transforms each house into an energy-efficient, beautiful home in three targeted neighborhoods: Newhallville, the Hill, and Dwight. Not only are the houses completely renovated with all new interior finishes, but the enhanced curb appeal highlights the streets. Our homes provide an opportunity for individuals and families with low and moderate incomes to become first-time, often first-generation homeowners.
Our Commitment to Sustainability
We have a deep commitment to sustainability in both our business and building practices. Each home is renovated to Energy Star 3.0 standards and comes with similar innovative and earth-friendly features. The benefits to the local community and its homeowners have been indicated by lower utility bills, state-of-the-art insulation, highly durable housing components, and increased housing value.
IN THE PAST YEAR, we renovated 8 HOUSES to historic and Energy Star 3.0 standards: two two-family homes and six single-family homes, giving 10 FAMILIES a place to call home. We currently have two properties under construction, and plan to complete them by the beginning of 2021.
Here at NHS of New Haven, our office doors may have closed, but staff never stopped working to deliver the services residents depend on.
As a leader in homebuyer education, financial coaching, credit counseling, and foreclosure prevention, the HomeOwnership Center guides people through the process of qualifying for, finding, purchasing, and maintaining their first home. Through one-on-one counseling and workshops that cover a range of topics, we prepare individuals and families for homeownership. In 2019-20, the HomeOwnership Center provided 3,280 clients with one-on-one counseling or in-person workshops and assisted 102 clients who were fighting pending foreclosures. We have helped 806 in-person and eHome online clients become homeowners and 1,100 become mortgage-ready. With a growing number of people interested in purchasing homes in and around New Haven, we continue to see an increased demand for our services. Classes regularly reach capacity and housing specialists stay busy helping clients achieve their dream of homeownership.
- Clients who increased their savings 73% 73%
- Clients who improved their credit scores 81% 81%
- Clients who maintained their budget 70% 70%
Progress During The Pandemic
Wanda Underwood and one of our former realtors, Tanice Doman, had been working together since the fall of 2019. They had been looking into homes on the open market for a while, but none of them felt like home to Wanda. She wasn’t very optimistic, but each showing was something to remember. The endless laughs and stories really built a relationship between her and Tanice, allowing them to get to know each other.
After a while, Wanda felt her needs and wants would be better met through purchasing a home from NHS. She fell in love with 19 Lilac Street and was overflowing with excitement leading up to her closing date. When she looks at the home, when she thinks of it, all that comes to mind is “mine.” She’s so proud and Tanice was excited for her. She watched as Wanda and her son walked around the home, staging it out loud and figuring just who and what would go where.
In the midst of this process Wanda lost her Mother, who was to be living in the home with her. Her family was going through a rough time, so it’s all the more special for us to be part of this with them— To give them a piece of peace, where many memories are to come. Wanda closed in June with masks and flowers, following a strict safety protocol.
The Underwood family is finally home.
Building Your Future
2020 has been a year that will long be remembered. The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed uncertainty and fear on the one hand, but on the other it forced us to look at the busyness of our lives and to re-think and re-imagine our daily rituals. Within the HomeOwnership Center, we had to look at the way we interfaced with the public. 90% of this interface was in-person prior to the pandemic. Credit and budget coaching consultations and classes had to be virtually re-imagined and re-designed.
Our Housing Specialists first transitioned to phone consultations and are moving into the virtual world of video-conferencing for the latter part of 2020 and all of 2021. We like to say that we meet our clients wherever they are on the homeownership continuum, and now we can add that we will provide services virtually to customers wherever they are located.
As our virtual class numbers continue to grow exponentially month after month, we strive to make the experience more engaging, more flexible, and more attuned to customer/client convenience.
Since the pandemic started, we hosted:
As a prospective homebuyer it is important to be prepared for the homeownership process.
At our initial meeting, I gather all the relevant information such as are they prequalified? What are some of the ‘must-haves’ in a home and how much can they afford to spend on the purchase of a home?
To be a great realtor you must be comfortable enough to meet your clients wherever they are in the process. My clients, a beautiful family of four introduced to me by a mutual friend, did their homework by planning, preparing and educating themselves about the whole process. This family knew exactly what they were looking for in a home. A realtor’s dream! After showing them seven homes, they found a home that was just right for their growing family. They were very organized throughout the process making the whole transaction seamless. From contract to closing took 30 days!
Fiona Williams is a conscientious realtor with over ten years of experience in banking and finance, which is tied to all real estate transactions. She offers excellent customer service and a commitment to work hard, listen and follow through. She provides quality service to build relationships and more importantly, maintains those relationships with effective communication. Fiona is committed to 100% client satisfaction.
Connecticut’s first and only nonprofit real estate company, HOC Realty, serves all people, but especially those seeking low-cost housing options.
Our realtors are available for clients interested in buying, selling, or renting a home, and they are experts in mortgage offerings and available down payment and closing costs assistance programs. They are also eager to help people who are selling lower priced homes that might not be attractive to realtors looking to maximize their commissions on higher priced sales. At HOC Realty, we invest profits back into our mission and keep clients’ best interests at the core of our work. In 2019-20, HOC Realty facilitated 52 transactions.
With safety concerns paramount, in-person events and programs have been adapted to virtual platforms including this year’s Yale FOCUS. The program connects incoming Yale students with community partners like NHS, and the volunteers collaborated on virtual volunteer opportunities, exploring fundraising, communication, advocacy, program support, and data management.
On Thursday, May 21, 2020, NHS’ Community Building and Organizing team joined the Urban Resources Initiative (URI) to host the inaugural Beaver Ponds Summit via Zoom.
The Beaver Ponds Park Summit was born from the energy of many groups that have been involved for decades but did not always coordinate. Over the years, NHS has become increasingly involved in revitalizing the park, through the close work with residents of West Division Street. After learning that the park lies in the West River Watershed and contributes to the pollution of the river and Long Island Sound, we began to think about ways our local greenspace work was connected to larger environmental issues.
In December 2019 and January 2020, as plans were being made for this year, it seemed like the time to bring all the various park participants, partners and interested parties physically together to share what each of us has been involved in: celebrating the successes to date and beginning a plan, with tasks and a timeline, to move forward. Of course, by March our plans for meeting together at the park were thrown into question. Rather than cancel the Summit, we decided to proceed virtually using Zoom led by URI. This proved to be a great success, and afterward many people commented that they felt more connected to the various partners than they had previously.
The invitation list included: URI, Friends of Beaver Ponds Park, NHS, Community Placemaking Engagement Network (CPEN), Connecticut Audubon Society, City of New Haven River Keeper (Retired), City of New Haven staff from various departments including Parks and Recreation, Outdoor Education, City Landscape, and Public Works; alders from four wards (20, 21, 28 and 29), members of Community Management Teams, homeowners and renters living close to the park, professors and students from SCSU and Yale University, members of West River Watershed Coalition, and a representative from the Greater New Haven Regional Water Authority.
Learn about our work with West Division Street...
What began in 2010 as a small neighborhood footprint, with NHS’ first-of-its-kind complete gut rehabilitation of 335 West Division Street, would eventually become a cluster of projects that helped revitalize the neighborhood and inform our development strategy going forward. Initially, we had difficulty in selling this home. Many of our qualified buyers were discouraged by the deteriorated conditions of neighboring properties, as well as the active, open drug dealing and gang activity. Jim Paley, our Executive Director, decided to invest additional resources by purchasing three more houses – 339 West Division Street, 319 West Division Street and the corner property with the address 504 Dixwell Avenue – beginning the Healthy Neighborhoods approach to stabilization that became the cornerstone of our ambitious, ultimately successful development strategy. NHS has worked closely with the 14 property owners along the short block of West Division Street. With input and support from the residents, we implemented a lighting initiative by installing lampposts on six of the seven houses on the north side of the street; painted the exterior of two houses with volunteers; and held weekly street clean-ups and individual home landscaping, led by volunteer-extraordinaire, Sally Voegeli. The sub-section of the park that is across Sherman Avenue at West Division Street became known as Sherman Forest, and we have worked with numerous organizational partners to bring together volunteers and residents. This also became part of the work of Community Sustainability at NHS, and the West River Watershed Coalition.
…captures this meeting and hopefully, a few of you will be interested to view it!
Community Building & Organizing
NHS of New Haven is a proud organizational member of the Newhallville Community Management Team and we have enjoyed working with five Newhallville start-up non-profits over the past year:
In 2019-20, NHS coordinated:
Resident Leadership Program Graduates
In the early spring of 2019, NHS received an inquiry from Cara Hoyt, a case manager who works with young women at Turnbridge in their residential treatment program for alcohol and drug addiction. We welcomed Cara and four young women between the ages of 18 and 22 to the Stevens Street Community Garden in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven. What began as a one-off, two-hour volunteer event turned into a weekly opportunity to connect with a meaningful project.
The Turnbridge group was instrumental in providing labor as Gather New Haven (formerly known as the New Haven Land Trust) continued its second year with new raised rows to increase garden capacity. This opportunity has allowed the young people to be outside, exercise their muscles and minds, and work with compost, soil, plants, and flowers. They became very competent in watering, weeding, staking of tomato plants, along with addressing insect and pest challenges.
One example of how this work was an important element of the treatment program was when one of the young women, who had been to the garden for three consecutive weeks, showed up with her own gardening gloves. We later learned that she had mentioned in a conversation with her mother that she was gardening each week, and her mother sent her a pair of gardening gloves in the mail, along with a note. As she shared this story with the rest of the group, it was evident that a shift in the mother- daughter relationship had occurred.
Participants and staff from Turnbridge have shown a strong commitment, not only to the program but also to the New Haven community, as exemplified in their weekly visits. We are pleased to offer this project as part of an overall treatment plan because we see that individual and relational healing is deeply intertwined with the process of building community and beautifying a neighborhood.
Our history with Stevens Street...
NHS has held a longtime commitment to working with residents of Stevens Street to bring about positive change. Over the past eight years, NHS has renovated five houses on this target block. Six years ago, the NHS Community Building and Organizing Department secured $22,500 to complete minor facade improvement to 10 of the 12 homeowners on this street of 52 houses. We have supported block parties and planted trees, along with regular street clean-ups, and helped revive a defunct community garden that had been turned into a dumping ground. Today, it is wonderful to see young children who once came to the garden at the age of eight and are now finishing high school and preparing to go to college.
Our CB&O team works alongside residents to identify areas that would benefit from place-making projects that create welcoming, quality, community-shared spaces and rallies the volunteers to get the job done. From block parties to street clean-ups, each project aims to create community cohesion and improve the quality of life of neighborhood residents. In 2019-20, volunteer projects have included:
Beaver Ponds Park
Mr. Alonzo's Garden
Mr. Alonzo loves to garden. He has been tending the community garden on Hazel Street in Newhallville for decades.
He especially loves to grow kale and collard greens and he gives a lot of his harvest away to neighbors.
Valentine's Day Homeowner Breakfast
Each year, we host a Homeowners’ Valentine’s Day Breakfast for all our NHS Homeowners.
We like to take the holiday as an oppotunity to cook breakfast for our neighbors, because we love them like family!
The NHS Tool Lending Library
Lots of Fish, the eco-arts nonprofit coordinated a special tribute to the artist Keith Haring. Students-turned-employees painted storm drain murals, decorated rain barrels, and designed crosswalk art in Haring’s signature style to match an information kiosk that sits at Hazel Street and Shelton Avenue.
The Community Sustainability department is very thankful for the many community volunteers of the New Haven Energy Task Force and the West River Watershed Coalition who work tirelessly to ensure accessibility and environmental benefits to all members of our community. We would also like to extend special thanks to Xochitl Garcia, Pat Wiener and Mike Uhl for the many hours they have spent in support of our work. Finally, we extend congratulations to former VISTA volunteer Jett Jonelis on her new role as Advocacy Manager for the ACLU of South Dakota.
Building upon years of demonstrated results making deep energy retrofits in our housing rehabilitations, in the spring of 2020 we started a new initiative called I ♥ My Home CT.
Thanks to generous community support and a matching grant from Sustainable CT, we raised funds to serve 40 households in our first year. Six months in, we are working with over 100 households with new sign-ups every week.
I ♥ My Home CT is a cost-free, one-stop-shop for homeowners, renters, landlords and households of all income levels to increase their homes’ health, functionality and comfort while lowering their utility bills and carbon footprint. This “energy concierge” model provides individual energy consulting and a comprehensive plan to meet customer goals.
I ♥ My Home CT keeps clients from “falling through the cracks” by navigating through “analysis paralysis” to clear next-steps.
Currently, we are serving:
NHS of New Haven has long been committed to environmental sustainability, knowing that for any of our work to matter long-term, a healthy environment is essential. The negative effects of climate change and environmentally-abusive policies disproportionately affect low-income communities, like the ones that we serve.
In 2019-2020, our Community Sustainability Department organized:
Stormwater Management Classes & Events
West River Watershed Coalition meetings
Energy Task Force meetings
other grassroots energy and environment organizing meetings
2019 – June 2020
A very special thanks to our generous supporters, without whom none of our work would be possible.
Albertus Magnus College
AO & Co.
Bank of America
Berchem Moses PC
Bike & Build, Inc.
Rabbi Herb & Elin Brockman
Can Vacuum Jet LLC
Capital For Change
Francine & Robert Caplan
Deborah Carliner & Robert Remes
Connecticut Housing Finance Authority
City of New Haven
Community Action Agency
The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
Community Housing Capital
Marguerite & Mark Cotte
Celeste & Stephen Cremin-Endes
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
DiLeo & Ritucci
Ally Korony & Rashaun Durden
Eaton Vance Management
Amanda & Robert Filippone
Stephanie Fitzgerald & Frank Cochran
George J. Smith & Son Insurance
Paula Gill Lopez
Tebben Gill Lopez
Robin Golden & David Berg
The Greater New Haven NAACP
Guilford Savings Bank
Noel & Robert Heimer
Carol & Joseph Heller
Wendy & David Johnston
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Iris & Naftali Kaminski
B. Diane King
Knights of Columbus
Kimberly Langin & Sam Rigotti
Leland Torrence Enterprises
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Susan & Ronald Miller
Roslyn Milstein Meyer
Mary Ann Moran
Pastor Donald Morris
National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
New Alliance Foundation
New Haven Bank
New Haven Ecology Project
New Haven Energy Task Force
New Haven Investment Fund
Newtown Savings Bank
North Haven Sewer Co.
Ann Dornfeld; Jeremy, Malcolm & Ivan Paley
Erica Paley & Daniel Sämann
Sharon & James Paley
Paula & Frank Panzarella
People’s United Bank
Edward Pikaart, Jr.
Shari (Stelzer) Rahamim
Regional Water Authority
Edgar Russell, Jr.
Barbara & Roger Stetter
Matthew H. Short
Jennifer & Jason Sylvester
Town of Hamden
Trachten Law Firm
Trowbridge Renaissance Inc.
United illuminating Co.
Jean K. Webb
William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund
Yale New Haven Health