Christian Activities Council has a long history of developing affordable housing in Hartford.
The housing efforts of Christian Activities Council fall into two major phases. From 1957 to 1990 Christian Activities Council’s efforts were concentrated mainly in affordable rental housing for families and the elderly. Acting as the umbrella “sponsor” CAC was instrumental in establishing affordable rental housing for families and the elderly such as Vine Court, Avery Heights, Horace Bushnell Congregate Homes, Horace Bushnell Apartments, and Vine Street Cooperative. From 1990 to the present time, CAC has concentrated mainly on home ownership for very low to moderate- income families, with the one exception of the Zezzo House, permanent subsidized housing for people with HIV/AIDS, which was completed in January, 2001.
Christian Activities Council’s venture into home ownership for the “working poor,” began in 1989 when Mr. John Wardlaw, the Executive Director of the Hartford Housing Authority, had a series of discussions with representatives of Warburton Church and Christian Activities Council regarding the housing crisis in Greater Hartford. His analysis was that moderate-income working families in Hartford were being locked out of traditional home ownership opportunities and therefore, were continuing to occupy subsidized rental units in public housing and elsewhere in the city. This was forcing low-income families in desperate need of subsidized housing into emergency homeless shelters and other such substandard living facilities. Christian Activities Council began to explore with Mr. Wardlaw, ways in which they, along with other groups and community development corporations, could address the affordable housing crisis in Hartford.
In 1991, CAC formalized their partnership with the Hartford Housing Authority, forming a new corporation called Urban Suburban Affordables, Inc (USA). USA is an affiliated 501 (c) 3 organization of CAC. The activities of USA are controlled by its’ Board of Directors. Through a Land Bank Land Trust Grant of $808,000 provided by the State of Connecticut, Department of Housing, Urban Suburban Affordables, Inc. undertook its first development, the award winning Pinewood Condominium complex in West Hartford, Connecticut. Working in conjunction with the West Hartford Housing Authority and the Hartford Housing Authority, Urban Suburban Affordables, Inc. found ten African-American and Latino families who were selected as owners from 78 original applicants. They completed a twelve-week homeownership-training program and each family contributed over 200 hours of “sweat equity” in painting, cleaning, etc. during the construction process. These families purchased their units on a sliding scale according to need. Two additional units were subsequently purchase by the USA and sold. The long-term affordability of these units was insured by a “silent” second mortgage running to Urban Suburban Affordables, Inc. on the town land records. The Pinewood development received a “grass roots housing action” award from the State Housing Coalition and was honored by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for outstanding inter-jurisdictional coordination by the West Hartford and Hartford Housing Authorities.
The second major venture of USA, Inc. was a pilot Scattered Site Program in which the proceeds from the sales of Pinewood Condominium units were used to purchase the underlying land for existing family homes while eligible families purchased the improvements (house). Ten additional working families were able to purchase condos or individual homes. Due to the success of the pilot Scattered Site Program, the State of Connecticut, Department of Housing voted a new grant in the amount of $1,014, 125 in 1992 enabling the USA, Inc. to expand its’ scattered site program.
By 1996 an additional 65 families had purchased homes. This program was so successful that when USA, Inc. requested further funding, the state allocated funds not used by other towns to USA, Inc. in the amount of $132,254. Later in 1996 USA, Inc. was granted $1,300,000 in new funding to continue the scattered site, land lease program. In 2001 USA, Inc. was approved to receive $750,000 of HOME funds from the State of Connecticut, Department of Economic and Community Development. To date, USA, Inc. has enabled 206 families to purchase their first home in the Greater Hartford Region.
Through this ten year period, CAC and USA have used their grant funds of approximately $3 million dollars (excluding condominiums) to leverage nearly $15 million dollars in private mortgages while enabling the purchase of $17 million in real estate by low to moderate income families.
In 1992 CAC and USA expanded their homeownership efforts to include the rehabilitation and/or new construction of affordable homes for lower income working families in the Upper Albany neighborhood. Its’ efforts to renovate historic homes have been widely recognized as a significant deterrent to neighborhood decline.
On Deerfield Avenue alone, CAC has renovated five abandoned two-family homes and built three new houses mirroring historic design. In total CAC has invested over $7 million in housing in Upper Albany along with initiating community leadership efforts that are increasing civic engagement.