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Regional Agency Tackles Banking, Affordable Housing

Regional Agency Tackles Banking, Affordable Housing

New Haven Independent, May 9, 2019 

By CCM staff

Towns and cities check their parochialism at the door when they’re a part of a regional council of government.

That’s according to South Central Region Council of Governments (SCRCOG) Executive Director Carl Amento, who was the guest on this week’s episode of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ “The Municipal Voice on WNHH.”

Connecticut may have gotten rid of their counties long ago. But the Councils of Government, or COGs, are still a strong example of the powers of regionalism.

Amento, who served as mayor of Hamden for three terms, cited many examples of the 15 SCRCOG municipalities working together to improve local governance through regional partnerships.

One such example is the Virtual Accounts Payable System, a new way of banking for many municipalities. The system that SCRCOG is looking at would provide rewards for towns and cities just as a credit card from a local bank does, with added perks for paying electronically.

“If you think about it, towns have to buy a lot of stuff,” Amento said, “The one that’s been successful with this is Branford.”

Other municipalities saw that success and now the company that offers this program is meeting with six or seven SCRCOG members, he said. Summing up the idea, “It’s a no-brainer.”

SCRCOG is not saying that towns share all their services yet, but they do collaborate with one another, share ideas, and see where that leads. As Amento noted: “If another town did it, and it’s working, the bandwagon effect occurs after that.”  

Affordable housing too back to top

This increased collaboration is also playing out in the realm of affordable housing.

As reported in this Independent article, SCRCOG had convened a committee to study the best practices found in New Haven, which is the epicenter of the 15 municipalities in SCRCOG, as well as the first ring suburbs, and outer ring suburbs.

Many of these towns and cities are lacking enough adequate affordable housing, according to officials and experts. Amento cited a United Way study of the so-called ALICE households, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed households, where, despite having jobs, families struggle to make ends meet or live close to their jobs.

He cited projects in Bethany that are now allowing for co-housing intentional communities similar to a kibbutz, while other areas are looking into accessory housing, more commonly known as in-law apartments.

Whether it’s a new way to bank or a new way to zone communities, what SCRCOG recognizes is that each municipality has its own ideas and committees. “We convene people,” Amento said, “we try to establish consensus.”