Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

Six-Month Improvement Plan

The City of New Haven has entered into a partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the local Public Housing Authority (PHA) -- the New Haven Housing Authority (HANH) -- to address the chronic fiscal and operational problems of the HANH which has a public housing program of 3,500 units and a Section 8 Existing Housing program of another 3,000 units, and which receives a total of approximately $37,000,000 in HUD funding.

While PHAs have traditionally operated insulated from local government, the problems at HANH have necessitated more direct HUD and local oversight to avoid federal takeover and the resultant jeopardy of public funds. At the Mayor's request, HUD and the City have undertaken a comprehensive top-to-bottom management assessment of every aspect of HANH operations and devised a detailed and ambitious Six-Month Improvement Plan which all parties have bought into and which is currently being carried out.

This Six-Month Improvement Plan and the closer City/HUD/HANH cooperation has already resulted in several innovative programs, such as joint neighborhood and HANH tenant inspection teams to identify HANH and City problems that need to be addressed in improving housing conditions, more closely coordinated City Comprehensive Plan and Housing Authority capital projects planning, and a new direction for the provision of basic police services to HANH properties by the New Haven Police Department, including related youth diversion and anti-crime efforts.

An unanticipated advantage of this effort is linked to recent Congressional direction toward increasing the responsibility local government has for PHAs that are designated as troubled. As a result of the management assessment study done by HUD, New Haven is the newest officially-designated Troubled Agency in the country, and this designation has allowed the City to be a first experiment on how HUD can support such PHAs. Not only can New Haven's aggressive attention to this normally-separate PHA be helpful in getting quick attention to corrections necessary, but federal and state intervention can help control any loss in federal assets.

Contact: Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, (203) 946-7660

New Haven Enterprise Community Council

A successful example of leveraging federal support to a city's advantage is fould in the New Haven Enterprise Community Council which was cited by HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo in March as one of the top 12 best performing enterprise communities in the country. Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. says the City earned the recognition largely because it has moved the enterprise community process away from the confines of City Hall and into the neighborhoods. Having residents, rather than bureaucrats, steer the decision-making is the key, he believes. The City was able to easily transition into the enterprise community mechanism in part because community policing, with its focus on neighborhood substations and involvement, was already well established in New Haven.

"New Haven's enterprise community program has attracted widespread participation by residents, community organizations and businesses because we have focused our efforts on empowerment at the neighborhood level," DeStefano says. "Neighborhood activist Bill Battle, who resides in the Newhallville neighborhood, co-chairs the council and each of the six designated neighborhoods has an active team of residents making decisions and guiding policy. The council has drawn the involvement of some 600 residents and has made creation of new jobs and assistance to small, neighborhood-based businesses the top priority."

The City in late 1994 won designation as an Enterprise Community, joining 65 other municipalities nationwide. Designation as an Enterprise Community means the City will receive a minimum of $3 million to expand jobs, economic opportunities and help families in 10 census tracts that fall in the City's most distressed neighborhoods.

The New Haven Enterprise Community Council has trained 50 businesses and start-up companies, all located in enterprise community neighborhoods, through the City, Gateway Community Technical College and the Bank of Boston's entrepreneurial training program. It has distributed City loans to 30 neighborhood-based businesses for expansion, all in enterprise community neighborhoods. It has won the participation by 100 high school students in the School to Career internship program. Finally, it has created a Reverse Commuting programthrough which the City of New Haven, the Job Center and the Regional Workforce Development Board operate three vans to transport New Haven residents to work sites not served by public transportation.

Contact: Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, (203) 946-7660

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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