Relief is here for the residents of the Thames River Apartments in New London, who have been plagued with rodents, roaches and hot water problems.
A new $1.28 million grant will fund relocating the 118 families living there. It comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Voucher program. The program helps low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford housing in the private market.
New London Housing Authority staff said the residents in Thames River spend up to 30 percent of their income on rent. They’ll continue to pay that with the vouchers.
"I'm just happy to go. I've got tears in my eyes already just talking about it," said Jeanette Parker, who lives in the Thames River high rises.
Parker also serves on the New London Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. She took pictures of roaches on the property and dirt covering the stairways. Parker said residents have opened their windows because the heat is too high, there’s scarce hot water, and her son had an encounter with mice.
"They were just climbing up the closet. (The coat) was on a hanger. Inside his hood: mouse poop. All over the place," Parker said, who plans to move away from New London.
Resident Rena Cook plans to stay in the city to be near her newborn twin granddaughters and her 4-year-old grandson.
"A lot of people are going to be finding apartments in the snow, but at least it’s happening.” Cook said.
J. D’Amelia and Associates, a contractor with the state Department of Housing, will issue the vouchers, said Lee Erdmann, interim executive director of the New London Housing Authority. The housing authority hired Glendower Group to help with relocation efforts.
Erdmann said many people plan to stay in New London.
The federal funding can assist 122 families. Currently 118 families are living in Thames River, Erdmann said. The goal is to have all of them relocated by June 30 or earlier.
"It is absolutely a step in the right direction," according to Erdmann.
Each resident can look for their own apartment or the Glendower Group will give each family three options, Erdmann said.
Betsy Gibson, the chair of the New London Housing Authority Board of Commissioners said the first families could move out in December if they have housing locked in.
Erdmann said letters have already been delivered to families at Thames River. On Dec. 8, representatives from both J. D’Amelia and Associates and Glendower Group will be on site to have individual meetings with tenants and have them fill out necessary paperwork.
"For the kids to maybe put a pool in their backyard and go outside and play and don't have to worry about gunshots or fights or what have you," Parker said about the benefits of finding a new home.
As for the Crystal Avenue property, it will eventually be sold to the city at an appraised price of $185,000. The city will then handle the cost of demolition and future development, Erdmann said.
"New London families will now have an opportunity to access the housing they deserve,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero in a statement. “This grant will open the doors to safe, quality housing which will serve as a foundation for a strong future for our community."
"This critical funding will enable over one hundred New London families to secure decent, safe, and sanitary housing as winter sets in,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chis Murphy, and Rep. Joe Courtney in a joint statement. “Housing Choice Vouchers provide critical access to affordable housing that supports families and others in need during their toughest times. We welcome HUD’s investment in the New London community, and are grateful for the New London Housing Authority for its continued work towards expanding quality, affordable housing in the city."