Griswold man searching for home of his own
Griswold – Kevin Curtis sleeps on a futon in the living room of the three-bedroom Jewett City apartment where he lives with his daughter, her fiance, and three children.
The 61-year-old pays a third of the $850 per month rent check, an arrangement in place since his divorce in 2019. Before that he lived for nine years in a trailer at what was then known as Country Mobile Estates.
An amputee, Curtis lost his leg in 2016 to an infection exacerbated by diabetes following open heart surgery the year prior. He said sleeping in the living room is fine in one respect because everything he needs is there on one floor.
“Part of the problem is I get no privacy in the living room,” he said.
What Curtis described as a series of intense personal traumas, including the loss of his leg, his marriage, the deaths of his mother and his stepson, culminated in January when his older brother was shot and killed in the driveway of the brother’s Norman Road home.
“I do everything I can within me to keep the faith, stay strong, stay positive and keep moving forward,” he said.
Curtis detailed putting in applications for housing at McCluggage Manor and Ashland Manor, the town’s options for elderly and disabled people whose rents are subsidized by the government. According to the Griswold Housing Authority, the waiting list is about two to three years long.
He also reached out to management of the new, 72-unit Oak Tree Village complex that opened in Griswold last year. The one- and two-bedroom apartments are set aside for various income brackets ranging from those with very low incomes to those who can afford to pay market rate.
Developments like Oak Tree Village, which is operated by the Massachusetts-based Dakota Partners, differ from the subsidized, public housing model commonly understood as Section 8. Public housing and vouchers are for very-low income families as well as elderly and disabled people.
In subsidized housing, the government covers the difference between what a household can afford to pay in rent and the rent itself. A place is considered affordable when those living there pay about 30% of their total income on rent and utilities.
In affordable housing, a private developer – often with financial incentives from the federal, state and local government – builds apartment buildings with a certain number of units set aside for at least 30 years so people in lower income brackets can cover the rent.
Oak Tree Village’s income guidelines specify that a renter has to make at least 2.5 times the gross rent plus utilities to qualify. The lowest rent listed is $994 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Curtis said he makes $1,179 a month in disability benefits. Just taking the rent into account, he’d have to make at least $2,485 a month to qualify for the cheapest apartments.
Curtis at the time asked the leasing agent how it can be considered low-income housing with minimum requirements like that.
“She said ‘we’re not Section 8,’” he recalled. “Just plain, ordinary affordable housing.”
He wondered at such a definition of “affordable.”
“Now with everything that’s going on with the economy with gas prices and food prices skyrocketing all to hell, how would somebody like me be able to make ends meet,” he said.