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New Haven affordable housing project second in country to use mass timber sustainable method

The second affordable housing project in the country to use the “mass timber” construction system is a 69-unit affordable housing project at 340 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven (above).
Abigail Brone
Connecticut Public
The second affordable housing project in the country to use the “mass timber” construction system is a 69-unit affordable housing project at 340 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven (above).

Progress is underway in New Haven on the second affordable housing project in the nation to employ wood in place of steel and concrete.

The 69-unit, two-building complex on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven uses mass timber, a wood product and technology that reduces the amount of CO2 emissions used during construction.

“We all know we’re in a climate crisis and we have to think of many, many different ways to confront the climate crisis. One of the ways is capturing carbon from the air,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said. “Trees take in that carbon and they store it within the wood. If you burn the tree, all the carbon goes away. But, if you store that wood in a long-term structure like this you're taking carbon out of the environment.”

City leaders say the production of construction materials account for 10% of the global energy-related carbon pollution contributing to climate change.

Unlike steel and concrete, which are commonly used and non-renewable building materials, mass timber employs wood, a renewable resource, and stores carbon in the building structure.

Of the project’s 69 apartments, 55 will be for low-income residents earning 60% or below the average median income. An additional 20 units will be reserved for people experiencing homelessness.

“Often times we toss around that word, affordable, but the reality is not everyone can access the type of technical definition of affordable, but this project has a high percentage of units. Eighty percent of units are affordable,” Elicker said.

The project is a partnership between the city, Beulah Land Development Corporation, andSpiritos Properties, a New York-based construction company known for its work in mass timber. Spiritos Properties previously used the mass timber method in the construction of 33 Crown St. in New Haven.

The Dixwell Avenue project, going up in a long-vacant lot, is the first mass timber affordable housing project on the East Coast and the first funded using federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Sacramento is home to the only other affordable housing apartment building in the country that was constructed using the mass timber method.

Using the mass-timber style costs slightly more than typical construction, but has more benefits in the long run, project architect Alan Organschi, of Gray Organschi Architecture, said.

“Our construction impacts are huge and we have to fix that. The problem is that we’ve sunk huge amounts of money and capital into building our industries that use steel and concrete,” Organschi said. “We developed a huge series of behaviors and patterns and conventions and regulations around the use of these materials and buildings.”

Groundbreaking on the project took place in August 2022, with plans for the building to be move-in ready in early 2024, according to Beulah Land Development CEO Darrell Brooks.

Funding partners on the project include TD Bank, National Equity Fund, Community Preservation Corporation, Connecticut Department of Housing, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, and the City of New Haven Livable City Initiative.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.