Homes in Struggling New Haven Neighborhood Offered a Second Chance


Before and after of 339 West Division St. (Photo by NHS)
Cara Kenefick
Even though the Newhallville section of New Haven has a reputation for high crime rates and boarded up homes, Jim Paley sees a brighter future for its residents. Paley, Executive Director of the New Haven Housing Service (NHS), believes a $100,000 grant awarded to his organization is just what the area needs to revitalize the neighborhood. The money will be given out as small loans to Newhallville property owners to reinvest in their homes. 
The revitalization of the neighborhood, which Paley said is “mostly African American”, is not only an undertaking for its current residents. Over the next few years, he aims to prove the area is “on it’s way up” to potential buyers, including New Haven’s Latinos.
Earlier this month, Congress passed legislation to fund the grant through NeighborhoodWorks organizations across the country. The organization specializes in strengthening and revitalizing communities and promoting affordable housing.
The grant, plus additional funding already allocated to the Newhallville revitalization effort, will allow the NHS to put approximately $250,000 back into the neighborhood.
The small loans, between $5,000 and $20,000, will be given out based on three focus areas: repairs addressing housing code violations, energy efficiency (such as new windows, insulation and efficient heating systems), and exterior appearance. Residents currently can request the loans through NHS.
Although he is optimistic about the future of Newhallville, Paley said the area has been a challenge. What it needs, he said, is some inspiration.
“If you’re living next to a boarded up house, you’re not necessarily going to be motivated to fix your broken porch or replace an old leaky roof,” he said. He added that there is a perception that the neighborhood is not worthy of investing in and the worth of houses will only decline.
That perception is exactly what he hopes the grant will change.
The intended result of the loans is two-fold: homeowners will have a way to reinvest in their properties, thereby motivating nearby residents to tackle work needed in their own homes they may have not been able to justify doing before. Paley has high hopes, but said it is difficult to predict how the community will respond.
“Obviously we’d like to help the houses that are most in need of work, but these are houses that are privately owned. It’s dependent on owners coming to us and saying they’d like the help,” Paley said.
Hopefully, he said, the residents will begin to take pride in their neighborhood again, become active within their neighborhood associations and work together with the beat police to drive out those who perpetrate violence on their streets. Then, Newhallville can begin to thrive.
The revitalization of Newhallville is a five-year process, Paley explained. Over the past two years, NHS has acquired 25 vacant and derelict homes in the area that will be renovated for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. They are now in the second year of work, which has included completely renovating several of those homes and constructing a new house on New Hall Street.
NHS is now focusing on community outreach and letting residents know the loans are available. Members of the NHS have recently started meeting with community groups and legislators to spread the word about the loans.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro applauded the NHS for its work to rehabilitate the area’s homes.
NHS has played a positive role in our communities for over three decades, revitalizing neighborhoods and changing lives,” she said in statement released shortly after the award was announced. “Kudos to NHS for winning this grant and I look forward to seeing the results in Newhallville.”