The Day – Update on construction of The Day’s Housing Solutions Lab

We are pleased to announce that we are launching an in-depth investigation into the area’s housing crisis in April after months of “listening tour” interviews with community members, applying for grants, organizing story ideas and recruiting staff.

Writers Elizabeth Regan and Johana Vazquez, and photographer Sarah Gordon, will begin reporting next month. We line up freelance journalists to cover their beats while they are assigned to the project for at least three months. Others will be involved as we tackle a growing list of topics.

The housing crisis has gotten worse since we first told you about our plan in November 2021 and asked for community help with funding in December 2021. Housing costs continue to soar, same as inflation. Eviction cases are on the rise in Connecticut, with 15,110 cases filed in state court since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, and 558 court filings last week, according to the Eviction Lab in Connecticut. Princeton University.

We call our year-long project the Housing Solutions Lab because we don’t study this complicated topic just to report issues. We plan to have a tangible impact. We’ll show our readers how policy changes would help, and then champion them through our editorial section. We will look at how housing funds are distributed; and if we expose inefficiencies, we will also seek and propose solutions.

We seek to partner with organizations to ensure that financial literacy training is available to help people in our area become more able to manage their expenses.

Maureen Croteau, a longtime member of La Journée’s board of directors, volunteered her help. Croteau directed the journalism program at the University of Connecticut for 38 years before retiring in August 2021. She is also a member of the Connecticut Journalism Hall of Fame. She told us recently that she misses the mentorship of aspiring journalists—she even dreams of it—and offered to work with UConn students on our project. We’ll work out the details in the coming weeks and keep you posted.

Fundraising continues. Journalism funded from community and philanthropic sources is new to us, and we’ve worked with the Local Media Association, along with 20 other news organizations across the country, to learn how to fundraise. Because The Day is a for-profit organization, the Local Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3), serves as a fiscal sponsor so donors can make tax-deductible contributions.

We raised $28,000 and will know in the coming weeks if we will receive additional grants from local and regional funders. We have also re-opened our Community Journalism Fund page online and plan to continue fundraising throughout the project. Please consider donating what you can.

Our goal is to raise $245,000, which would allow us to hire three full-time journalists and pay for events, marketing, translation, travel and equipment. We will provide editing and project management.

Although we will remain focused on the solutions throughout the project, we plan to start by presenting the problems. The first set of stories, which will be published this summer, will include an overview of available accommodation in each town in New London County and a profile of some of the people involved.

We will also focus on our hometown of New London during this initial report. We want to tell a fuller story of the Thames River Apartments, a housing project, also known as the Crystal Avenue skyscraper, which is being demolished. We’ll be talking to people who have been displaced from Crystal Avenue, and if you’d like to participate, please email Johana Vazquez at [email protected]

With each brainstorming session and each meeting we attend, our list of stories and our commitment to the project grows.

We are grateful to everyone who took the time to talk to us and for every generous donation we received.

Karen Florin is The Day’s Engagement Editor. She can be reached at (860) 701-4217 or [email protected]

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