August 4, 2011; Source: The New York Times | The Newhallville section of New Haven, Conn. was hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.  Since 2006, the neighborhood has seen waves of abandonment and neglect as homeowners, and bargain hunting investors let neglected houses falling into total disrepair.  Moving beyond its core mission, a local affordable housing group, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven(NHS), has decided it needs to start flipping these forlorn properties for the public good. 

NHS has been a leader in home ownership education and foreclosure prevention for more than thirty years.   The groups has so far purchased 18 abandoned homes in New Haven,  in order to provide affordable homes to local residents who meet income requirements and have a commitment to bringing back the Newhallville neighborhood.  NHS is taking a “cluster” approach and has purchased groups of homes in order to create islands of stability that it hopes will fuel an overall neighborhood revival.  

Executive Director James Paley described the strategy to the New York Times saying, “The idea is if you were to stand in the geographic center of one of these clusters and look around, you could see work going on on three or four houses.  The attempt is to change perceptions.” 

NHS is spending about $25,000 per house and using monies from state and federal programs to cover costs of complete gut renovations.   Three houses which had been vacant for more than a decade required approximately $400,000 in rehabilitation costs.  One NHS house is priced at around $185,000, a low price for the state overall but around the average sales price for the city of New Haven.  Housing prices in New Haven has been on the decline since the beginning of the recession, although the pace of the drop has slowed recently.  

NHS is hopeful that redeveloping neglected housing stock with an eye towards community revitalization will help make one of the City’s poorest neighborhoods a place where the history of foreclosure can be rewritten with a somewhat happier ending.  – Laura Cronin