Litchfield County Organizations Receive Grants to Create Housing Opportunities

By Deirdre McKenna / February 21, 2024

Housing Solutions Viewed Through a New Lens

The first round of Create Housing Opportunity grants has been awarded to two organizations, Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative and Kent Affordable Housing, with technical assistance provided to grantees by Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity.

The Create Housing Opportunity grant program was designed to foster cross-sector collaborations that address housing affordability at the intersections of economic growth and conservation of the region's natural beauty. The grant program is the result of a year-long collaboration between the The Foundation for Community Health (FCH), Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) and its Fund for the Northwest Corner, in partnership with the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunity (LC-CHO).

Land Trusts, Housing Organizations and Town Leaders Map Out Solutions

Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, a land conservation initiative sponsored by the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), will utilize this funding to bring together the region’s land trusts alongside housing organizations and town leaders from eight northwest Connecticut towns. Connie Manes, Director of Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative, HVA, says their proposal was inspired by the success of their Hudson Valley counterpart’s Hudson Valley Affordable Housing and Conservation Strategy.

“We want to help housing organizations, conservation organizations, and towns in our region to be better equipped with the tools, relationships and criteria to make decisions about land use and have dialogue when specific opportunities arise." – Connie Manes

The new coalition met informally in January and will reconvene over the next eight months to create shared policy statements that reflect an aligned understanding of the intersectional goals of conservation and housing. Possible outcomes of this project include identification of parcels for affordable housing development and a feasibility and impact study.

Kent Affordable Housing (KAF) is utilizing its funding to collaborate with the Kent Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD) to explore the feasibility of creating housing for emergency service volunteers, and to better understand the housing needs of those who work and volunteer in Kent.

A committee of 13 people started to meet regularly in January 2024, with representatives from the KVFD, Jocelyn Ayers from LCCHO, David Berto from Housing Enterprises, five people from KAF a volunteer serving both KVFD and KAF. They have explored the possibility of developing affordable housing in a portion of warehouse space connected to the firehouse and have launched a pair of surveys on the impact of the housing situation in Kent on volunteers, employees, and employers.

According to Justin Potter, President of Kent Affordable Housing:

“Over 80% of respondents so far who live and work in Kent want to move within Kent because their current living situation is unsustainable...”

Local employees and volunteers for the KVFD and other key organizations “are being forced out by the housing situation." Contributing factors to this are rising rents and the unsustainability of temporary housing situations. Potter notes that New York State fire departments that have created housing for their volunteers have developed “a great asset for recruiting, retention, and improved response times.”

The grant will be used to explore the feasibility of building housing on potential sites and will include architectural, environmental testing, and surveying. Cost estimates can then be determined, and a strategy designed for raising the funds needed to construct these units.

Read more about the Salisbury Forum event in September 2023 “Housing + Jobs + Conservation: A Roadmap for Action”, which launched the Create Housing Opportunity grant program.

Additional funding is available through this program to eligible organizations that serve the following towns: Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, North Canaan, Norfolk, Salisbury, Sharon, and Warren. If you have any questions, contact View Program Guidelines.