A group of 40 people stood huddled together on the sidewalk outside the governor’s residence in Hartford Thursday singing Christmas carols that Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the guests arriving at the mansion may not have wanted to hear.
To the tune of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ they sang “Jodi, the Gov’nor/Is compassionate they say/She cut housing aid/But the people know/She made a mistake that day.”
Residents of the state’s public housing projects were there to ask Mrs. Rell to restore almost $4 million in PILOT, payment in-lieu-of-taxes, and tax abatement money to the state budget. Without the restoration of the money, “the poorest people in the state will be facing significant rent increases,” Jeffrey Freiser, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition, said.
June Downer, who lives in Hartford’s Bowles Park, said “most of the people can’t pay the rent as it is.” She said the residents staying are already struggling to pay the rent, which is about $313 per month. Without the $4 million, residents at Bowles Park will see their rent go up another $64 per month. Annie Walton, who lives in Hartford’s Westbrook Village, said a lot of people are under a real strain to pay the rent, medical bills, and energy bills. She said her gas bill last month was $134.70 for three rooms.
Without the $4 million for 4,282 housing units, residents who live in the state’s 23 public housing projects will see their rents go up an average of $68 per month. Housing projects in Enfield and Seymour will see their rents increase as early as next month.
How did this happen?
Democratic legislators who attended the holiday protest said no one can explain it. Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said “It was there at the beginning, then it was gone.”
Rep. Ken Green, D-Hartford, said restoring the money will be his number one priority. Green, who chairs the Housing Committee, said once something is cut from the budget it’s always difficult to get it back. If he had known about the cut he would have said something. “We as legislators should not have allowed this to happen in the first place,” Green said.
Rep. Tim O’Brien said the cut is essentially a “tax increase on people of modest means.” The $4 million “is by no means a budget buster,” which makes the fact that it was done “just wrong,” O’Brien said.
A call earlier this afternoon to Mrs. Rell’s office was not returned. Last time we reported about this issue calls to Mrs. Rell’s office for comment were also not returned. On Sept. 20 we placed calls to Rell’s office to address this issue. It was a busy day at the Capitol, so we gave them the benefit of the doubt, anticipating that they would return the call later that day, at which time we would have updated the story, but a call never came.
Click here to read our previous report.