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Fairfield County affordable housing model expands across CT

A Fairfield County nonprofit is being used as a statewide model for increasing affordable housing.

The Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity (FCCHO), based in Bridgeport, was founded in 2018 as a partnership among the region’s leaders and community advocates to increase housing affordability.

The FCCHO is a strategic partnership between The Housing Collective, Regional Plan Association, and Partnership for Strong Communities. The Housing Collective received a $500,000 grant to establish Centers for Housing Opportunity in Windham, Tolland and New London Counties. The grant was awarded by the bank JPMorgan Chase.

An investment in housing is also an investment in the collective futures and success of the state, Housing Collective President and CEO David Rich said.

“This transformational grant takes us one step closer to supporting and enabling the preservation, production, and protection of housing that is safe, affordable, and accessible to all,” Rich said.

The FCCHO uses a county-wide method to the area’s affordable housing needs, rather than a town-by-town take.

“The idea behind the center for housing opportunity is that the housing market is regional, you can't separate,” Center Senior Advisor Christie Stewart said.

While the state is trying to bolster affordable housing options in Connecticut, Stewart says the Centers for Housing Opportunity are not state-run.

“We have only done that in regions that have come to us and asked us to come and work with them,” Stewart said.

The center’s work is a process that won’t produce new apartments in the next year, but it will create change over decades.

“Over the long haul, it is much more conducive to the production, preservation and protection of housing that's affordable to a range of households,” Stewart said.

The purpose of the Housing Opportunity centers is to take a holistic view of each county’s housing needs.

“You can live in Norwalk and go to the doctor in Stamford, or you could go to school in Westport, or vice versa,” Stewart said. “Those municipal jurisdictional lines are one thing as a resident, but in terms of, of an economy and a market, a housing market, in particular, a transportation system, etc. It's one ecosystem.”

No plans exist for the Housing Collective’s Center for Housing Opportunity to expand to central parts of the state, including Hartford and New Haven Counties.

As the organization only establishes centers where requested, Stewart said conversations about extending aid to the state’s capital area haven’t arisen but are welcome.

The $500,000 grant follows a federal recognition granted to one of the nonprofits that helped establish the FCCHO.

Earlier this season, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation was chosen as one of nine organizations chosen for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development award, for its role in establishing the FCCHO.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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