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learning from each other: individualized housing counseling in hartford, CT1

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Agency: the Hartford Department of Housing and Community Development

Challenge

Some WtW families will use the WtW voucher as an opportunity to move out of low-income areas where there tend to be fewer jobs, limited public transport, higher crime rates, poor schools, and inadequate city services. Most likely, these families will be unfamiliar with city and suburban neighborhoods that offer broader economic and educational opportunities. The challenge, then, is to help WtW participants search effectively for housing alternatives in areas that will offer greater employment options and/or accessibility to services such as transportation or childcare that often prove critical to job retention.

Solution: Individualized Housing Counseling with the Hartford Department of Housing and Community Development

The City of Hartford, Connecticut contains several high-poverty neighborhoods that are surrounded by a relatively affluent metropolitan area. These areas outside the city often offer better quality housing, a safer environment, better schools, and easier access to employment than the inner city neighborhoods. Because the metropolitan rental market has been relatively soft, housing in many of these areas has been available and affordable with Section 8 assistance.

With these opportunities in mind, the Hartford Department of Housing and Community Development contracts its regular Section 8 program administration to Imagineers, Inc. Since 1992, Imagineers has, in turn, contracted with the Housing Education Resource Center (HERC) to develop a mobility program. This program provides housing counseling on an individual basis to households receiving Section 8 assistance.

HERC has packets of information available about each of the 29 cities and towns in the Hartford area, including maps and bus schedules. Once participants select areas to search, HERC staff provides them with information about those areas. Staff then takes them on individual tours of the selected communities so they can search for housing and view the schools, shopping areas, and transportation routes. Counselors work on identifying units through newspaper listings, signs, and contacts with participating landlords. Depending on the needs of the participants, a counselor may become involved in visiting a specific unit and even negotiating rents and deposits. Recently, HERC staff has begun a more systematic landlord outreach effort, providing information about the Section 8 program to property owners in the targeted areas.

Implementation

The program has been supported entirely through grants from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. HERC received its first grant of $250,000 in 1992 and received a second grant of $130,000 in 1996.

Results

Between 1992 and 1996, HERC placed 140 families in housing in and around Hartford. Of these families, 87 (or 62 percent) have moved to higher-income areas outside the city. Because the program's purpose is to help families move out of the city, staff does not assist those who choose to remain in Hartford. One example of the program's success is a woman who recently moved from a public housing complex in Hartford to a new development in a semi-rural area. This participant moved further away than most clients and faced many challenges, particularly lack of good public transportation. Within a month, she called the program staff to tell them she had gotten her driver's license and was applying for a job driving a commuter vanpool. She is very happy with her move and feels it has opened up new opportunities for her and her daughter.

Contact: Susan Harkett-Turley, Executive Director
Housing Education Resource Center 901,
Weathersfield Avenue Hartford, CT 06114
(860) 296-4242

1 This program was not designed specifically for the WtW program. However, the program description has been adapted to show how it could still apply.

 
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