In its effort to make affordable, stable and higher quality housing more accessible to low-income residents of color or residents encountering housing barriers, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving offered a competitive grant opportunity focused on supporting housing policy and advocacy activities. After reviewing a significant number of strong applications, the Foundation has awarded seven $25,000 grants to support a broad range of state and local public policy and advocacy work.
This marks the first time that the Foundation has offered its support for legislative advocacy by nonprofits and community members.
“We know that policy and advocacy are essential to making meaningful systems change to meet the substantial housing needs of underserved populations,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Impact Officer Erika Frank. “The Hartford Foundation is proud to support community-based advocacy work being done by nonprofits, particularly those efforts that engage residents with lived experience in policy development.”
Since 2014, the Hartford Foundation has been a been a registered lobbyist in the State of Connecticut, providing testimony and engaging with legislators and state agency staff on key issues. The Foundation also piloted funding for nonprofits engaged in administrative lobbying focused on working with state agencies to promote best practices and internal policy changes. Through its work, the Foundation has learned that the public policy ecosystem relies upon a diverse variety of voices, and the combined contributions of these different entities ultimately shape public policy that more closely represents the community. The history of structural racism in housing is long and multi-faceted, and its effects have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that addressing inequitable housing policy is key to supporting social and economic mobility of Black and Latinx residents, the Foundation chose this as its first funding opportunity for policy-related activities, including legislative lobbying.
“The pandemic has changed and diversified how we fulfill our mission,” said Connecticut Fair Housing Center Operations Director Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens. “One of the biggest changes is we are now working closer with tenants and grassroots organizing efforts, to promote equitable housing policy. We are grateful that the Hartford Foundation is supporting the inclusion of folks with lived experiences in our policy work, and grateful for the opportunity to be on the front lines of disrupting systems of inequity.”
The seven projects supported through these grants align with the Foundation’s strategic outcome area related to increasing the number of Hartford residents living in higher opportunity neighborhoods. The grants support a variety of policy and advocacy activities that are aimed at increasing housing stability, quality, and availability as well as increased homeownership.
These projects include:
Center for Latino Progress and its Transport Hartford Academy will advocate for Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) at the municipal, regional and statewide level, including engagement with municipal officials, public forums, and media engagement in a partnership with Desegregate CT. The work will focus on advocating for the inclusion of Transit Oriented Development in the Affordable Housing Plans of West Hartford, Newington, and Windsor. It will also include feedback from low-income residents in the Parkville section of Hartford about their housing needs and work with stakeholders involved in the redevelopment of this neighborhood.
Center for Leadership and Justice (CLJ) will build off of its No More Slumlords campaign which culminated in changes to Hartford’s housing code (including a licensing program for buildings over 40 units). CLJ will train Hartford residents to advocate for an effective launch of the licensure program, including identifying and overcoming barriers to implementation.
Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Inc. will support efforts to ensure renewed funding for the recently adopted statewide legislation providing Right to Counsel (RTC) for tenants facing eviction. The Center will work with the Connecticut Right to Counsel coalition to increase access to technical assistance for advocates and attorneys; coordinate a branding and communication effort; and provide ambassadorship of CT-RTC to key stakeholders and leaders.
Hartford Land Bank, Inc. seeks to build upon of its work redeveloping disinvested properties with an eye towards homeownership and community wealth building. It will engage and educate individuals, stakeholders, and legislators in an effort to pass legislation, or build legislative and administrative support for, creating a state funding mechanism for the redevelopment of small multi-family homes.
Open Communities Alliance will implement the “Fair Share Zoning Campaign,” a statewide effort led by the Alliance and a consortium of partners to implement policy that assigns affordable housing goals to every Connecticut municipality. Activities include generation of education and outreach materials as part of the campaign’s first phase.
Partnership for Strong Communities is working to expand the membership of its HomeConnecticut Campaign, a broad coalition of stakeholders focused on increasing access to stable, quality, affordable housing. Its goal is to be more inclusive of voices of people with lived experience and to implement its work more intentionally through a racial equity lens.
Regional Planning Association/Desegregate CT’s grant will support the organization’s 2022 legislative agenda which includes support of Transit Oriented Communities, reducing minimum lot size requirements, and streamlining zoning bureaucracy. The grant will support activities including the development and dissemination of legislative materials, advocacy materials, and a press toolkit.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $849 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.