(Updated 8 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy doubled down on a commitment made during his first year in office to increase the state’s investment in affordable and supportive housing by asking the General Assembly to approve an additional $330 million in borrowing to support the initiative over the next 10 years.
Surrounded by housing advocates Malloy announced his intentions to increase last year’s $130 million investment in housing by an additional $330 million. This year’s proposal will focus on the state’s long ignored public housing projects and will be included as part of Malloy’s Feb. 8 budget address.
“Safe, affordable housing is essential to our future,” Malloy said Wednesday. “When we invest in housing, we invest in people, communities, and our economic future. It is the right thing to do and it is the smart and affordable thing to do.”
Last year, despite a more than $3.5 billion deficit, Malloy borrowed $30 million to fund the construction of 150 new supportive housing units. Residents in supportive housing receive needed job and life counseling as they transition off the street or out of a shelter into a more secure living space. Another $50 million helped pay for the construction of affordable housing units where families are asked to pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
This year Malloy said he’s taking his commitment to housing one step further by making an even bigger investment that includes $30 million in bonding to upgrade the state’s 14,000 public housing units, $12.5 million to reinvigorate elderly congregate housing, $1.5 million annually for scattered site supportive housing, and an additional $20 million in affordable housing.
“We didn’t go high enough last year that’s what we’re acknowledging,” Malloy said.
He said going back to the last Democratic Governor William A. O’Neill there was about a $50 million commitment to housing programs. That commitment all but drops off completely by the end of former Gov. John G. Rowland’s administration and the beginning of former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration.
Rell’s administration, according to the graphic Malloy provided, never invested more than $40 million per year.
“I’ve gotta play catch-up quite frankly,” Malloy said.
He said because the state was so far behind his commitment to housing last year’s investment wasn’t big enough to make a dent. But it’s more than playing catch up. He said he has an appreciation for what this can do for job creation in the construction trades.
Housing permits are down 6.2 percent from last year and off 75 percent from the peak level reached in 2004. Malloy estimated the package will help create 6,700 construction jobs.
Connecticut is one of only four states with state-owned public housing and it’s a type of housing that’s been ignored for far too long, he said.
“They were allowed to deteriorate quite extensively and we’ll look for innovative ways to bring them back,” Malloy said. “I fear that some of the units are going to be more difficult to restore than others, but we’ll make substantial progress with this allocation of money.”
Housing advocates said of the 14,000 state owned housing units about 10 percent are not occupied and need rehabilitation.
Addie Keith, a resident of Corbin Pinnacle Heights, a public housing development in New Britain, said she’s lived there for 41 years. She said when she was working it was a great place to home at night and now in her retirement it’s a place she can afford.
She said she lives on a social security and disability check and can’t afford the high rents that are out there. According to studies residents need to earn $24.90 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment when the median wage is $19.61 an hour.
“Housing is a foundation on which families and individuals thrive,“ Betsy Crum, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition, said. “Without it few other needs can be achieved. It’s a necessity of life and a treasured refuge.”
She said while some of the announcement Wednesday was a surprise, she’s especially pleased with the commitment to supportive housing. She said it will go a long way toward eliminating homelessness in the state.
In addition to building more supportive housing units, Malloy is also spending about $2.6 million annually on the support services for those living in the units.
Aside from the investments in housing Malloy will also reorganize the state’s housing functions which are split between the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Social Services. The new housing office will be within the DECD.