Hartford Foundation Awards $210,000 in Grants to Support Housing Policy and Advocacy Efforts
In 2021, the Foundation offered its first ever support for legislative advocacy by nonprofits and community members, awarding $200,000 in grants to eight nonprofits to support a broad range of state and local public policy and advocacy work focused on increasing access to affordable housing. Among these organizations was the Hartford Land Bank, Inc. which used its grant to engage key stakeholders and legislators to pass legislation to support efforts to redevelop disinvested properties with an eye towards homeownership and community wealth building. Hartford Land Bank’s efforts led to the creation of a new $20 million fund allocated through Urban Act Funding programs to support homeownership and revitalization of small mixed-use and single- and multi-family development in urban communities.
The Foundation is pleased to announce its second round of housing advocacy grants including work involving administrative, state legislative and/or municipal advocacy aimed at addressing homelessness and creating access to more affordable, stable and higher quality housing for residents of color, low-income residents, and/or residents experiencing unique housing barriers (such as returning citizens). Nine nonprofit organizations have been awarded grants totaling $210,000. Several grantees were awarded funds to continue work from the first round of advocacy grants; others are receiving housing advocacy grants for the first time.
“In our second round of housing policy and advocacy grants we have incorporated several lessons learned from the first round of grantmaking,” said Hartford Foundation Senior Community Impact Officer Erika Frank. “This included the need to award grants well before the start of the legislative session to allow for planning and inclusive community engagement and the need for continuation funding to many grantees due to the long-term nature of many legislative campaigns. The Hartford Foundation recognizes that policy and advocacy are essential to making meaningful systems change to meet the substantial housing needs of underserved populations. We are proud to continue our support for community-based advocacy work being done by nonprofits, particularly those efforts that engage residents with lived experience in policy development.”
Through its work, the Foundation has learned that the public policy ecosystem relies upon a diverse variety of voices, and the combined contributions of these different entities ultimately shape public policy that more closely represents the community. The history of structural racism in housing is long and multi-faceted, and its effects have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that addressing inequitable housing policy is key to supporting social and economic mobility of Black and Latinx residents, the Foundation chose this as its first funding opportunity for policy-related activities, including legislative lobbying.
One of the nine organizations receiving a grant is Open Communities Alliance, which will continue its work on the “Fair Share Zoning Campaign,” a statewide effort led by the Alliance and a consortium of partners focused on reforming zoning policies to allow for more housing choice for low income families. The campaign seeks to increase policymaker and public awareness of the need for comprehensive pro-homes zoning reforms at the state and local levels.
“We are so grateful to the Hartford Foundation for this grant,” said Open Communities Alliance Executive Director Erin Boggs. “Restrictive zoning practices have resulted in extreme segregation in Connecticut, restricting housing choices, with a disproportionate impact on people of color. These policies must be dismantled to ensure true housing choice for all citizens of our state. The Hartford Foundation’s generosity helps Open Communities Alliance work to increase educational and economic opportunities for all, as we dismantle housing segregation.”
The eight remaining projects include:
The Arc of Connecticut will support advocacy for more affordable housing options for persons with disabilities. Efforts will focus on increasing housing funding and low-income tax credits for persons with disabilities; additional spending of ARPA funds for housing, and increased utilization of the Intellectual Disabilities Autism Spectrum Housing (IDASH) model.
Center for Leadership and Justice will continue its efforts to support the training of six resident leaders to organize and advocate for enforcement of the City of Hartford’s housing code. The project seeks to ensure the successful implementation of a licensing program for apartment buildings with more than 4 units; identify and launch a large long-term campaign on eviction, rising rents and affordable housing; and support the professional development of BIPOC resident leaders.
Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness will be engaged in state legislative advocacy to make housing a right, address root causes of homelessness including justice involvement, and to advocate for the necessary funding to support the housing response system. The organization will work in partnership to create a multi-year legislative agenda that includes additional long-term funding for frontline homeless services.
Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Inc. will continue its work to ensure renewed funding of statewide Right to Counsel (RTC) and to ensure equitable implementation of the strategy. The Center is working with the CT-RTC coalition and related advocacy campaigns led by tenants’ unions towards passage of policies and other tenant protections that promote housing stability.
Once INCarcerated Anonymous will continue its advocacy work with people returning from incarceration around housing issues. This grant will support the creation of educational materials for justice involved individuals to advocate on Right to Counsel, in opposition to housing laws that discriminate against formerly incarcerated people, and to increase political support for second chance housing developments.
Regional Planning Association/Desegregate CT will continue its zoning reform efforts advocating for transit oriented communities. This work includes increasing awareness of the need for pro-homes zoning reform at state and local levels, attracting more coalition members and ultimately passing a pro-homes, transit-oriented communities proposal in 2023 legislative session.
Rocky Hill Congregational Church will host a speaker series to increase knowledge around affordable housing issues among Rocky Hill residents, with the goal of increasing support from suburban residents for housing reform.
Sustainable CT will build on the momentum of the work of towns to create Affordable Housing Plans and utilize its statewide database of adopted municipal housing strategies to help residents and town leaders to implement adopted housing reforms. This effort seeks to promote regional collaboration on housing policy and increase resources and support to town leaders in implementation of affordable housing solutions that are informed by residents.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $894 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.