NORWALK, Conn. — Officials unveiled a development that will bring new housing to South Norwalk and revitalize the Washington Village housing complex with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.
But as everyone was looking forward, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling also took a look back. His father would take him to visit his cousins who lived at Washington Village and he said it was showing its age even then.
“It was tired then. It’s tired now and the people who live there deserve to have housing of which they can be proud,” Rilling said to a group of about 100 people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The $45 million Phase One will see 80 mixed-income rental units constructed at vacant lots at 13 and 20 Day St. Those units are expected to be completed by March 2018. It's part of a larger three-phase development that will replace the 136-unit Washington Village public housing complex with a new 273-apartment complex.
Washington Village is the state's oldest public housing complex and was built in the early 1940s. It has been plagued by flooding — including during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 — because of its proximity to Norwalk Harbor.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state has made housing a priority during his administration. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to end chronic homelessness among veterans and is close to doing so for all homeless in the state.
"We are right on the cusp, we are right on the cusp of ending homelessness, chronic homelessness amongst our population in the state," Malloy said. "If anyone had thought five-and-a-half or six years ago that that would be possible in the state of Connecticut, people would have looked at you and said you are crazy."
Eva Erlich, vice president of development for Trinity Financial, the developer behind the development, said the company is looking forward to the housing.
"We're very excited. It's been a long time in the making," she said. "It's truly been a collaborative effort between federal, state and local elected officials and government agencies, and we are just thrilled to be a part of it."
State Rep. Bruce Morris, D-140th District, praised the development as one that will improve the lives of local residents.
"This is really the candles on the cake," Morris said as he spoke about better housing, economic development and the fact that local residents will be given priority for jobs during construction.
He also praised the new development for seeking to attract people from all walks of life instead of simply placing all lower-income people in dense urban developments.
"This is a different model," Morris said. "Everyone knows inclusionary zoning is one of the best things that you can do for dealing with the achievement gap."
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