“Connecticut lacks about 85,400 units of housing that are affordable and available to its lowest-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”
On January 10, 2023, Foundation House hosted a convening of key housing industry players to explore innovative solutions to the Affordable Housing Crisis in Connecticut. The Keynote Speakers were Jonathan Rose, President of Jonathan Rose Companies and Seila Mosquera-Bruno, the CT Department of Housing Commissioner.
The Summit provided an overview of the current state of Affordable Housing in the region and then focused on creative solutions in development, design, and financing by drawing upon best practices and innovative initiatives in CT region and beyond. The day-long Summit included 85 leaders from government, advocacy groups, service providers, funders, developers, and others who listened, learned, and engaged with each other to help solve this important issue.
The goal for the Summit was to provide a space for attendees to discover best practices, expand their networks, develop cross-sector relationships, explore actionable roles for funders and financial institutions, and find opportunities for collaboration.
Summary & Findings
The Summit covered the issues regarding the challenges of affordable housing in the State, and particularly focused on best practices and creative solutions in the areas of design, development, and funding. The causes and solutions to the housing crisis are often complex and multifaceted. During the event a number of key causes were discussed, including lack of affordable housing, wage stagnation, gentrification, discrimination, bureaucracy, and lack of funding.
Keynote: Developing Communities of Opportunity
To launch the Summit, leading affordable housing developer Jonathan Rose shared an overview of his extensive and impressive experience in affordable housing developments and the importance of creating communities of opportunity. He advocated for preserving existing housing and the importance of implementing green, sustainable building standards, as well as the need to support community through open spaces, education, and programs and services.
Panel: Holistic Programs and Services
Similar to Jonathan’s approach, our panelists on ‘Holistic Programs and Services’ discussed the importance of putting residents first by creating social community programs and wrap-around services as well as mentioned the need for better support and financing from federal and state agencies. Panelists shared how education and employment services advance equity and economic mobility and Lifting Up Westchester highlighted that there is a less than 2% return-to-shelter rate when new tenants are assigned with case managers.
Denise Durham Williams/Inspirica (Moderator), Rob Hebert/Career Resources, Anahaita Kotval/Lifting Up Westchester, Inna Khidekel/Bridge Investment Group
Fireside Chat: Commissioner, Seila Mosquera-Bruno
The panel was followed by a ‘Fireside Chat’ with Commissioner, Seila Mosquera-Bruno. The Commissioner gave an overview of her ‘Time to Own’ program which allows people to acquire a forgivable loan of $50k for 10 years, as well as an overview of the Governor’s commitment to housing with the allocation of $2billion in activities to support the crisis. She also explained that a challenge in reaching development goals are due to a lack of developers and vocalized the need for partnership between non and for-profit agencies.
Seila Mosquera-Bruno/Commissioner, Department of Housing
Panel: Advocating for Affordable Housing
Closing out the morning session was a panel discussion on ‘Advocating for Affordable Housing’ where our panelists gave insight into the history of exclusionary zoning and how that has impacted the state today. Collectively, they advocated for zoning reform, taking on a fair housing approach, and the need for collective change in public will and public policy.
Mendi Blue Paca/Fairfield County Community Foundation (Moderator), Sean Ghio/Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC), Erin Boggs/Open Communities Alliance, Aïcha Woods/Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity
Panel: Housing for Homeless
The second half of the day focused on innovative tactics, opening with a panel discussion on ‘Housing for Homeless’. The panelists shared the problem being that most homeless are unable to leave from transitional housing to permanent housing, and the many factors that lead to this dilemma. Panelists shared some innovative design tactics for transitional housing including the importance of co-living spaces to create community.
Evonne Klein/CT Coalition to End Homelessness (Moderator), Amy King/Pallet Shelter, Joseph Weisbord/JRW Strategies, Rafael Pagan/Pacific House
Panel: Developing Affordable Rental/Affordable Home Ownership
To discuss the challenges to development, the ‘Developing Affordable Housing’ explained that the more complicated process for housing developers comes after they find land and need to go through the community to secure the development. Between high cost of land and competitive process, the developers explained the importance of attaining good relationships with the local community.
William "Jamey" Healy/New Neighborhoods (Moderator), Michael Hunter/Trinity Financial, Anthony "Tony"Johnson/Greenwich Communities, Brooks Harris/Greenwich Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Panel: Creative Financing
A panel discussion on ‘Creative Financing’ explored the innovative ways that state and private funding can work together to help with capital stack by closing the gap - expressed as one of the key ways to get people into homes.
Richard Zimmerman/Foundation House (Moderator), Joan Carty/Housing Development Fund (HDF), Chris Hermann/Enterprise Community Partners, Nandini Natarajan/CT Housing Finance Authority
Presentations: Innovative Solutions
The day closed with three presentations to represent the creative design methods, technological advancements, and environmental standards for which developments are being made successfully. Informing us that the building sector is responsible for 40% of global CO2 emissions, the presenters discussed the efficiency and affordability of working with Mass Timber and Modular units, as well as a new software by RedTech which helps with cutting time and costs by sourcing land and creating development blueprints.
Alan Organschi/Gray Organschi Architecture, Alfonso Medina/Madelon Group, Sharon Schneider/Blue Room Housing
These issue-based discussions that explored scalable strategies and promising innovations were initiated to help better understand the complexities within the ‘Housing Crisis’ as a whole and unify the commitments under one umbrella to better foster systemic change. We believe the state of Connecticut has the right players to make great progress and significant growth towards more equitable, safe, and sustainable housing for all.
We would like to thank all of our panelists and attendees for their enthusiastic participation!
The Summit provided a wealth of information, ideas, and initiatives from experts in Affordable Housing. In the next period, Foundation House will go deeper into the subject by focusing on two key topics:
Private Funding: Private funding for affordable housing typically comes from investors, foundations/philanthropists and financial institutions that are looking to invest in real estate projects. Foundation House will seek ways to engage these groups and explore both the challenges and creative solutions to bring more private funding into the affordable housing capital stack
Technology: In the upcoming period, Foundation House will explore creative new technologies for affordable housing, including Prefabricated housing, Building information modeling (BIM), Smart Home Technologies, and Crowdfunding and P2P lending. While technology alone cannot solve the problem of affordable housing, it can play an important role in improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of affordable housing solutions.
Foundation House may host forums in these and other areas of affordable housing as well as report and share novel ideas, best practices and other helpful resources.