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    Housing Solutions Lab
    Tuesday, February 07, 2023
     

    Three Norwich affordable housing apartment buildings to be upgraded through $500,000 NPU grant

     
     
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    Norwich ― Affordable housing means more than low-cost rents for the tenants who also face heating and electricity bills, and the owners who must maintain buildings with limited revenue.

    To assist with those challenges, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority offers the state’s Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program, allowing companies to receive tax credits for investments in affordable housing.

    On Wednesday, Norwich Public Utilities announced its latest investment: $500,000 going to Eastern Connecticut Housing Opportunities so it can make upgrades to three rental properties in Norwich that have a total of 67 units.

    The CHFA tax credit program allows organizations to make contributions to eligible nonprofit agencies in lieu of paying a portion of their gross revenue tax. While NPU is a tax-exempt, city-owned utility, it pays taxes on the purchase of its electricity, NPU officials said.

    With the latest investment, NPU has provided ECHO with more than $5 million in tax credit grants since 2004, NPU officials said. The $500,000 is the maximum a nonprofit may receive per year through the tax credit program.

    “NPU is proud to make this important investment with ECHO to support housing that is affordable in Norwich,” NPU General Manager Chris LaRose said in a news release announcing the investment. “We understand the importance of quality, safe housing in our community and applaud the outstanding work done by ECHO to improve the quality of life for hundreds of families in our region every year.”

    ECHO will replace 95 windows at 120 Elizabeth St., the 1920s-era former Elizabeth Street School. The building has 29 apartments comprised of six one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom units. ECHO also will reseal the property’s parking lot.

    ECHO Executive Director Julie Savin said a past NPU tax credit investment replaced half the windows in the former school, and the new grant will complete the project.

    ECHO purchased the 14,000-square-foot early 19th century house at 130 Washington St. 10 years ago. The house has 12 units, with three one-bedroom, six two-bedroom and three three-bedroom units. The grant will replace an unreliable natural gas furnace, Savin said.

    ECHO also will use the NPU money to repave the driveway and parking lot at 27-31 Mopsic St., the 26-unit Hillside Apartments, with three one-bedroom, 16 two-bedroom, five three-bedroom and two four-bedroom units.

    No tenants will be displaced by the work at the three properties, Savin said.

    Savin called the NPU tax credit support, “invaluable.” She said smaller housing developments have fewer grant programs to tap into for upgrades and maintenance.

    “In order to provide housing that is affordable for people with limited income, we are charging them a lower rent,” Savin said, “and therefore our maintenance reserves aren’t as robust. In order to keep up on capital improvements, so that folks are living in quality housing, accessing this program is critical.”

    The upgrades mean monthly savings for ECHO’s tenants, Savin said. Tenants pay heating and cooling costs, so a new efficient furnace at 130 Washington St., and new insulated windows will cut those costs for families.

    Savin urged other companies that pay the gross revenue tax to take advantage of the tax credit program.

    Currently, all 154 of ECHO’s rental housing units are in Norwich. The nonprofit is building 64 new apartments on Bayonet Street in New London, with 28 units in one building and 36 units in another building. Savin said the buildings will have “a variety of units affordable to different income levels.” The 28-unit building is expected to be completed by this September and the entire project in 2024, Savin said.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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