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New Haven launches a program to promote affordable housing for both buyers and renters

Cutline: Connecticut’s Housing Divide
Julianne Varacchi
/
Connecticut Public
The Rockview apartments, an affordable housing community in New Haven, Conn., on April 9, 2021.

The city of New Haven has launched a program to strengthen neighborhoods by helping both ends of the housing spectrum – owners and renters.

The “I’M HOME” initiative is a two-pronged affordable housing program that will offer financial assistance for residents as rents and home prices remain unaffordable for many. The initiative will allocate $3 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds for security or utility deposits.

Income-eligible renters could get up to two months of security deposit funding, or $5,000, to secure a new unit.

“A lot of landlords in the city are charging pretty high security deposits right now, up to two, three times first month’s rent and a lot of folks can’t pay that,” said Eli Sabin, a New Haven Board of Alders member. He spoke alongside Mayor Justin Elicker and others to announce the launch of the program.

A fair market rent in the New Haven region for a two-bedroom is around $1,500 a month. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates the average renter would have to make about $30 an hour to afford that.

“Hopefully by offering to pay up to two months' security deposit, more people will find a home and be able to move in quicker. Rather than being homeless, living with a friend or in a shelter,” said Arlevia Samuel, the executive director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative.

Samuel said the program aims to help about 600 households with security deposit assistance that would not have to be paid back.

The program is grounded on the idea that everyone deserves “affordable, safe and high-quality housing,” so it also aims to promote more homeownership.

An additional $1 million under "I’M HOME" will be allocated to the city’s existing homeownership program for down payments and closing costs.

First-time homebuyers could access a zero-interest forgivable loan of up to $10,000. Additional help is also available for specific income-eligible groups.

“If a borrower meets 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidance, they will be provided an additional $15,000,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. “A third part is for municipal employees. They are eligible for an additional $2,500. So this is a way for us to attract people to become municipal employees and help support public works in the city.”

The average family needs an income of more than $75,000 a year to qualify for a new home with a 20% down payment, according to the National Association of Realtors. But according to the 2020 census, the median household income in New Haven is around $45,000 a year. The additional money for the “I’M HOME” initiative aims to reach up to 40 households.

For more information on eligibility, visit www.newhavenct.gov/LCI.

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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