HARTFORD, CONN. - The old St. Michael’s School here is swarming with children, from toddlers to teens. It’s part of the Hartford Grandfamily Housing Development, which provides homes and services to grandparents raising their own grandchildren.
More than 40,000 children in Connecticut live with their grandparents, said Monty Aheart, president of the Community Renewal Team, Inc. (CRT). The U.S. Census counts 2,100 grandparent- headed households in Hartford alone.
Finished in September 2007, the apartments at Hartford Grandfamily address a tiny fraction of the need. The property includes 24 two- to four-bedroom apartments for grandfamilies in a new building next to the historic school, along with 16 one-bedroom apartments restricted to seniors in the school’s refurbished top two floors.
The mix of small and large apartments will allow grandparents to move to smaller units after their grandchildren grow up and move out.
Most of the residents earn between 25 percent and 50 percent of the area median income. Project-based Sec. 8 rental subsidies ensure that none of the 40 households pay more than a third of their income on rent, no matter how small that income is.
CRT, a nonprofit that provides services like tutoring and counseling to children and seniors across Connecticut, waited for years to win a stream of operating subsidy to support a grandfamily development.
Grants from the state Department of Social Services and a $30,000 grant from the Noble Trust, a private foundation, help pay for a part-time activities director for the children and a social worker assigned specifically to the grandfamilies. Another services specialist works with the 16 seniors households not raising grandchildren.
The first floor of the school has 9,000 square feet of community space with offices, a party space, a kitchenette, and two large recreation rooms supplied with age-appropriate games, art supplies, and computers.
The children also receive tutoring through CRT’s early literacy program, which uses certified teachers and is funded by the federal No Child Left Behind program. There’s also a property manager on site 20 hours a week and a full-time maintenance person.
The Hartford police use an office on the first floor as a substation for officers working their beats in the neighborhood, so that from 6 p.m. to early morning there is often a police officer nearby. The police provide mentoring and activities like basketball for Hartford Grandfamily’s children.
Paying for and arranging all these services was so difficult it makes Hartford Grandfamily’s capital financing seem simple, involving as it does only two different types of tax credits and three separate loans, said Aheart.
The $10.5 million development used $6.4 million in equity from the sale of lowincome housing tax credits to MMA Financial. MMA also paid $776,746 for the project’s federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. The property received $1.6 million in soft financing from the state Department of Economic and Community Development and a $1.2 million HOME loan from the city. The last $500,000 came from a loan from the state Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program.