Connecticut Housing Partners
“A Champion for Affordable Housing”
Renée Dobos is an outspoken advocate for affordable housing. She has extensive experience in the creation of affordable housing, property management, and resident services. She also brings to the organization a number of community connections that assist in the stabilization and support of families. She leads Connecticut Housing Partners (CHP) to develop and maintain innovative housing, revitalize communities, and improve the quality of life for low and moderate-income families. For more than three decades, CHP has been advancing this mission.
Connecticut Housing Partners Formerly Mutual Housing Association of Southwestern Connecticut, Inc is a diversified nonprofit housing development corporation serving Fairfield County, Connecticut. Founded in 1990, our mission is to create and sustain housing, revitalize neighborhoods, and improve the quality of life for low- and moderate-income families in Fairfield County. CHP has offices in Bridgeport, Stamford, Trumbull and Wilton. Our affordable housing communities are located in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Norwalk, Stamford, Trumbull and Wilton. We are a community-based organization. Our Board of Directors is comprised of neighborhood residents, corporate leaders, representatives of non-profit agencies and members of the public sector. All Directors share a common objective—to provide affordable housing to those most in need in Fairfield County, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.
Renée is a visionary who feels that technology is a crucial strategic tool for keeping the company current and adaptable. She identified the vulnerability of the families CHP serves to the effects of income loss years before the pandemic struck. She established a Rent Bank as a tool to help CHP residents cope with the effects of job loss, financial hardship and avoid homelessness. When Covid struck, many individuals lost their employment, and the low and moderate-income community was the hardest hit, resulting in significant rent revenue losses for affordable housing providers. Renée instantly shifted gears and began raising funds for the CHP Rent Bank, ensuring the financial security of many CHP households. The organization raised over $200,000 which helped stabilize over 70 families during COVID while also offering free budget training as well. This was a key step in maintaining CHP’s financial health and preventing further evictions because the government stimulus monies for rental assistance didn’t arrive for another year.
As a champion of technology, Renée placed kiosks in each development to solve the social distancing issue caused by the pandemic. Residents use the kiosks to communicate with CHP employees in a secure manner, access recertification documentation, complete rental applications, pay rent, generate, and manage maintenance work orders, and many other functions.
Renée is also installing LED lighting, light sensors, and low-flow aerators in all CHP properties to help minimize the company’s carbon footprint. While these are important first steps, CHP will be the first affordable housing developer in the area to consolidate the solar energy production of all CHP developments and households on a portfolio basis. The goal is for CHP to pay for the electricity in the homes, increase cash flow for the families, and subsequently use solar energy production and portfolio net metering to lower overall electrical expenses for the properties.
Renée is a strong advocator, often reaching out to local financing authorities and state legislators. She travels to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC annually to lobby Senators and Congressman to continue funding the congressional appropriations for NeighborWorks America and other needs related to affordable housing. In addition, she is a chartered member of the National NeighborWorks Association which is an advocacy group for early lobby efforts related to pending bills and advising lawmakers on ways to be innovative when it comes to housing solutions for rental and first-time homebuyers. She also writes white papers to respond to public comments at the Federal and State level to ensure affordable housing is preserved.
Renée is laser focused on advancing the mission to develop affordable housing, operate with efficiency, reduce the organizations carbon footprint, build the rent bank, work with volunteers, enhance the resident services program and much more! She is a leader, and community builder. She is committed to being an exceptional steward of these important community assets, fostering strong partnerships, and broadening the organization’s impact throughout Connecticut.
A Strong Leader
"I am an advocate for all individuals, including women," Renée explains. "Empowerment and education, in my opinion, are foundation tools needed for achieving individual economic stability and growth." Renée is a strong, self-assured leader who believes in empowering and educating others to create opportunities. She leads by example, and she has been known to hire women with little to no experience and provide them with training and coaching because she sees the potential in them. As an example, the Director of Operations is a Hispanic woman who came to Renée from another organization with no prior expertise in affordable housing. "I hired her as a certification specialist, and through support, empowerment, training, and hard work she is now a director, overseeing 15 employees and 500 units of housing. She also completed her associate’s degree and has started working on her bachelor's degree," says Renée. Renée has personal experience with the power of education, having attended night school for ten years to achieve her bachelor's degree and subsequently her MBA.
Renée has given talks at local high schools, Rotary Clubs, and is currently a member of the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Because of her efforts during her career, Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven acknowledged her and awarded her the Public Service Award in 2015. Connecticut Housing Partners has won the "Best Of" award in 2019, 2020, and 2021 under Renee's leadership.
Building Homes & Future
CHP was founded in Stamford, CT, more than 30 years ago, in response to a growing need for affordable housing. The Connecticut Department of Housing was their initial partner, and together they developed a 69-unit affordable housing development that is still thriving today. CHP has invested over 100 million dollars in Fairfield County to create affordable housing since its inception, and it has plans for many more projects. CHP has been able to leverage the annual funds received by 47 to 1, resulting in an annual community impact of $7 million, thanks to its connection with NeighborWorks America.
CHP is continually sourcing funds to create more affordable housing. As a non-profit, CHP relies on federal and state funding and tax credit programs to keep development expenses low. In affordable housing, rental revenue is often reduced significantly because residents earn less than 60% of Area Medium Income, and only 30% of that income can be spent on rent.
In 2021, to provide an additional revenue stream, CHP opened a Real Estate Agency with a Mission to End Homelessness. Wise Choice Realtors isn't like any other real estate firm in that 100% of the net proceeds flow through to CHP to support the development of affordable housing. Wise Choice Realtors is a firm with a social mission supporting quality affordable housing and working to end homelessness. You can learn more at www.WiseChoiceRealtors.com.
Everyone benefits from affordable housing because it strengthens the economy and the middle class. Housing options that work for people from all walks of life are essential in Connecticut to establish a healthy middle class and, as a result, a flourishing economy. Connecticut Housing Partners has successfully addressed the concept of NIMBY in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where there is a lot of income inequality.
NIMBY, an acronym for "Not In My Backyard," which describes the phenomenon in which residents of a neighborhood designate a new development (e.g., shelter, affordable housing, group home) or change in occupancy of an existing development as inappropriate or unwanted in their community. CHP has been able to partner with local leaders to change this perception and help the local community see affordable housing as a positive and much needed resource for the community. We have built properties in affluent areas that no other affordable developer has been able to access.
In 2022, CHP plans to start construction on a new development in Monroe, Connecticut, with 49 affordable senior housing units. The Monroe Project will be the first of its sort, aimed at assisting senior residents to stay in Monroe, a community where they have lived for years but are being forced out due to rising housing costs. In addition, CHP will preserve 113 units of affordable housing in Bridgeport and Stamford, Connecticut, over the following few years.
Renée says, “During my lifetime, the person who I feel has done so much for gender equality is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I started my career at a time when there was a glass ceiling for women. Through the leadership example and efforts of Justice Ginsburg and many others, I knew with hard work, commitment, and dedication the glass ceiling could be shattered.” Renée adds, “I find that women are naturally more adaptive at forming partnerships. Over my long career, I have seen many changes in the workplace. Traits that I see that hold individuals back are large egos and stubbornness. Your career is a constant journey of learning and constantly improving. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.” IEWL
Connecticut Housing Partners
Our mission is to create and sustain innovative housing, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life for low and moderate-income residents. We’ve been building this mission for nearly three decades. Today, with 508 units in 15 developments, we’re leading the charge as one of the area’s most active producers and managers of affordable housing.