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Inspired by Fairfield County, eastern Connecticut groups form coalition to address housing needs

Calling for action on Housing Crisis
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Housing advocates march from Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford to the Legislative Office Building in December 2022. Growing Together Connecticut, a coalition of 38 Connecticut organizations, held a news conference, asking elected officials to turn their words into actions and address the high cost of housing.

The Center for Housing Equity and Opportunity (CHEO) in eastern Connecticut is a new organization aimed at addressing the housing crisis in the region. Made up of seven leading nonprofits, the center will work with municipalities, residents, housing advocates and policymakers to develop an affordable housing plan throughout the 42 towns that make up the region.

In addition to the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, other founding partners or the center include Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, The Housing Collective, Partnership for Strong Communities, Regional Plan Association and United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. The new coalition will look to leverage the strengths and areas of expertise across all seven partners to address the growing affordable housing crisis.

“The data shows that at least 1 in 4 households are struggling with housing,” said Maryam Elahi president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We wanted to see what we could do to expand our ability to address the housing needs in eastern Connecticut.”

Elahi said that the group modeled its efforts after similar programs across the state, including The Housing Collective of Fairfield County, and that the group will work collaboratively to address the housing issues throughout the region. The center will provide critical resources, technical assistance and a dedicated staff to ensure that everyone in the community has access to safe, decent and affordable housing.

The effort will be led by eastern Connecticut native Beth Sabilia, who is assuming the role of CHEO’s new director. Sabilia is the former mayor of New London, a longtime attorney in the area and a current selectwoman of Waterford. CHEO’s Elahi says they could not have found a more qualified candidate.

“She really has a sense of the communities, individuals, and the kind of obstacles that exist and challenges, so she’s truly the perfect person to lead this initiative,”Elahi said.

“Part of our hope, aspiration and our goal is that in each and every town people will come together, will join us and be stakeholders in ensuring that we create a housing reality that is attractive to the residents of the town and the people who work there and that they realize that this is going to be an economic boom, that it will really help the town to have housing that is inclusive and affordable,” Elahi added.

The launch of the center and the initiative will take place March 16. All the stakeholders and partners will come together at Connecticut College for a conversation and then, Elahi said, the center will reach out to all the mayors and selectmen of the 42 towns, as the collective will serve to work together to move the region to a new era of housing affordability.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said “one and four households are struggling with housing;” instead, it’s “one in four households are struggling with housing” and Beth Sabilia is the current selectwoman of Waterford, not Waterbury.

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