In 1992, the Urban Suburban Affordables, Inc. affordable housing program was launched in Hartford to help reduce the cost of homeownership for low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers. The project created a land trust where parcels of land are acquired and leased to eligible families upon purchasing the homes located on each parcel.
After operating for 30 years, the Center for Leadership and Justice (CLJ) is undertaking an extensive research project to measure the effectiveness of Urban Suburban Affordables program. By listening to past participants, CLJ and its partners are working to better understand whether the program was able to support people in moving out of poverty, building wealth, and having real choice in when it comes to housing. Findings from the research will help craft better housing/economic stability programming and policy recommendations.
“While Urban Suburban Affordables was developed with the best intentions, it was developed 30 years ago. There have been many changes in the housing landscape since then. There is also a long overdue need to address how systemic racism created extremely unjust housing conditions and intense racial and economic segregation in Connecticut,” said CLJ Executive Director Cori Nicewander. “By listening to and building relationships with people who have experienced this program, we can work toward more accountability for housing justice.”
This effort was funded by a $17,500 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, one of six grants totaling $110,874 to support local civic engagement, participation, and change. The Foundation’s Resident Engagement Grants are designed to prioritize efforts that support individuals in marginalized populations to engage and participate in work which improves the quality of life in their communities.
“Support for projects and programs through these Resident Engagement grants provides an opportunity for the Foundation to support smaller, community-led groups and organizations seeking to promote civic engagement in a wide variety of ways,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Impact Officer Cierra Stancil.
The Foundation did not dictate a preferred method of engaging residents, nor did they set specific topic-area outputs or outcomes. One requirement, however, was that the work engage the community in a way that could have a strong chance of increasing civic and/or social inclusivity and participation. The Resident Engagement grants allow groups and organizations to employ a variety of tools including hosting community meetings, forums, and theatrical performances, conducting workshops retreats, informational outreach campaigns, and driving volunteerism projects.
In addition to the Center for Leadership and Justice, the five other inaugural Resident Engagement grantees are:
|Advocacy to Legacy
|A youth-led campaign designed to 1) address issues immigrants commonly face with state issued identification and licensure with civic leaders (including DMV leadership) and 2) inform immigrant audiences on how to avoid such commonly faced problems. Identification and licensure issues often serve as barriers to economic participation among immigrant communities.
|• To increase the number of local youths that feel empowered to speak about and problem solve around important community issues.
• To decrease the number of local immigrants facing punitive damage and economic exclusion over preventable or unfair issues commonly caused by state identification and/or licensure laws.
|Community First School, Inc.
|The “Putting Community First” project is designed to further empower residents of Hartford’s Northeast neighborhood, including parents and family members of Community First School students, community partners, and neighbors by creating opportunities for meeting, learning, and advocating for positive community change.
|• The frequent meeting, conversation, and programmatic participation will turn strangers into acquaintances and create synergies for collaborations around topics discussed at the partner meeting table. This will play a part in creating a better neighborhood environment for the children attending the school.
• Local residents, including parents, will be better connected to wider initiatives going on in the City.
|HartBeat Ensemble, Inc.
|To support the (im)migration 360 performance series which seeks to both inform its audience about the breadth and depth of the local immigrant experience and challenge the audience about its potential preconceived notions about immigrants in America. The series also explores immigrant experience intersectionality with issues such as gender and race to explore how those circumstances create variances in the immigrant experience.
|• To increase the collective identity and efficacy of the youth and adult participants and gather community members who may not have otherwise come into contact with one another.
• To share the local immigrant experience with those who may not have had similar experiences through narrative building and storytelling.
|National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)
|To engage residents across Greater Hartford in community-wide inclusive conversations covering topics such as racism and LGBTQIA+ issues with both urban and suburban audiences in the Foundation’s service area.
|• To increase the number of residents who feel more comfortable talking about and addressing difficult social issues.
• To give citizens around Greater Hartford an opportunity to evaluate their thoughts and feelings about social issues which may or may not affect them personally but have a broader effect on society as a whole.
|Ujima African American Alliance
|To provide support for a small community group working toward inclusivity in Enfield through changes to the community’s education system. This grant supported an inaugural, community-driven Juneteenth celebration in Enfield this year.
|• Community inclusion elevated through a celebratory outward expression highlighting the Black American experience.
• To increase local visibility of a small group seeking to promote inclusivity through education.
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 $894 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.