New London Housing Authority continues to seek funds for properties

New London — The New London Housing Authority has obtained roughly $500,000 to fund overdue maintenance projects at the George Washington Carver apartment complex at 202 Colman St.

The money is being used for critical maintenance projects but is a far cry from the more than $4 million once promised for renovations to the elderly and disabled residents of the 128-unit complex.

Housing Authority Executive Director Kolisha Fiore said that the $4.26 million grant awarded by the state in 2017 through the State Sponsored Housing Portfolio, or SSHP, funding program was rescinded after the state discovered flaws in the application.

Fiore said one of the major problems was a more than $3 million underestimation of the cost of the work.

Due to the gap in available financing, the project was not brought forth for State Bond Commission approval and later was rescinded by the Department of Housing under the prior administration, said Nandini Natarajan, chief executive officer for the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

Natarajan said while there is no current funding for a new round of SSHP funding, the Critical Needs Deferred Loan Program previously was funded by the State Bond Commission and is applicable in the case of the New London Housing Authority.  

“The Housing Authority was advised to apply for Critical Needs funding to meet the most urgent needs and to apply in a later round for the larger, more comprehensive project,” Natarajan said in an email.

The housing authority, under several different directors, had tried and failed through the years to obtain funding for expansions and upgrades to the 11-story building at 202 Colman St., constructed in 1972.

Former executive director Sue Shontell unsuccessfully tried to obtain more than $6 million in funding for not only renovations but a 24-unit expansion.

Former Executive Director Roy Boling once called the 202 Colman St. complex “one step away from a Thames River,” a reference to the now-vacant Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue given up by the Housing Authority because of its deteriorating condition.

Boling had applied for the more than $4 million for housing unit rehabilitation work, window replacement, new HVAC system, new boilers and a new roof, among other projects. The building has suffered from leaks and flooding issues through the years. It was Boling’s application that received the initial approval from the state in 2017.

But with the lack of funds from the state, Fiore said efforts shifted to obtaining funding as quickly as possible to address the pressing needs. Critical Needs loans were obtained for two phases of work, the first including the replacement of two exterior doors and two new boilers. The total cost was $83,833.

The second phase is for the replacement of the roof of the main building and the community room. The total cost for this project is $416,305.36. This work will be scheduled for mid-March or early April, weather permitting.

Fiore said efforts will continue to obtain funds for other work at 202 Colman and other properties managed by the Housing Authority. In addition to 202 Colman, the authority manages units at Gordon Court and Riozzi Court and the 100 units at the federally subsidized property at 127 Hempstead St., the Williams Park Apartments.

“The goal is to renovate our current housing stock and make it sustainable for the next 20 years and find the best route to achieve that,” Fiore said.

The Housing Authority board of commissioners met earlier this week to discuss options for funding at Williams Park Apartments. Fiore said a consultant will be hired to explore future funding options.

The board of commissioners previously had considered a Rental Assistance Demonstration conversion, a voluntary program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

RAD Conversion is a program to access more stable funding by applying for either Section 8 project-based vouchers, or Section 8 project-based rental assistance.

Housing Authority board Chairwoman Betsy Gibson said she was a bit uncomfortable with the conversion, since it would leave the authority with less control. She said the overall goal is to gain funding for maintenance and upgrades while “protecting the residents.”

g.smith@theday.com

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