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Citizen's Research Education Network

November/December 1998 issue of Poverty & Race

Connecticut has continually struggled with the issues surrounding economic and racial segregation. When opportunities for Section 8 housing certificate portability became available, it was evident that residents of the Greater Hartford area were not aware of their options. Given that Section 8 mobility efforts in other parts of the country have served to spearhead and/or enhance desegregation efforts, it was imperative to gain a better understanding of why these certificate holders were not seeking housing outside of the city, especially considering that most new jobs of all types were being created in the suburbs.

In 1991, with support from PRRAC, CREN, in collaboration with the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and Greater Hartford Legal Services, implemented a study to determine the interest of Hartford Section 8 families in learning about their housing options. CREN hired community residents to conduct a survey of 401 certificate holders to obtain information about reasons for living in Hartford, current housing conditions, interest in moving to the suburbs and obstacles to moving.

Based on survey results and the experiences of other mobility programs, it was evident that a mobility support program would need to be created in order to realize an increase in participation. Consequently, the Hanford Foundation for Public Giving, the region's major philanthropic organization, created a new initiative, They awarded a three-year, $250,000 grant to the Housing Education Resource Center (HERC) to fund a counseling program to provide assistance and support for persons seeking to move to suburban communities.

Since inception of this program in 1992, several developments have occurred. The most significant change has been the expansion of mobility services. For example, the HUD Regional Opportunity Counseling program is now funding the HERC counseling program as well as a counseling program with Imagineers, the region's largest contractor for Section 8 programs. A lawsuit (Pitt vs. Hartford Housing Authority) resulted in a settlement for additional monies to be allocated for families being relocated from demolished developments. Also, residents of Hartford Housing Authority developments are now included in the Imagineers program. As a result of the HERC and Imagineers programs, approximately 100 families per year are using Section 8 certificates in communities other than where they were originally issued. (It is important to note, however, that nearly as many families have used the mobility program to move into Hartford as those seeking to move out.) The most significant difference is that now Section S certificate holders are better educated about housing choice and are exercising these options with greater confidence, largely due to the counseling efforts.

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