Fifteen Ridgefield affordable housing units have been open six-plus months. The waiting list has more than 600 names.

Photo of Shayla Colon
The Ballard Green apartments behind Ballard Park are a senior citizen complex run by the town Housing Authority, but tenats there still have rent to pay.

The Ballard Green apartments behind Ballard Park are a senior citizen complex run by the town Housing Authority, but tenats there still have rent to pay.

Macklin Reid / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Ridgefield Housing Authority has a list 619 names long of people interested in living in their affordable housing units. But various issues including management turnover have prevented 15 units from being filled in recent months.

The authority oversees four affordable housing properties in town: an independent living residence for seniors at Ballard Green, a congregate senior facility at Prospect Ridge, Meadow Ridge family units at Prospect Ridge and general affordable housing spread between both locations.

Four apartments remain open at Ballard Green, three with the general affordable units and eight at the congregate facility in Prospect Ridge. Those units have been open at least six months, while some of the residents joined the waitlist in 2018 or 2019.

“We have operated for the last seven years or so at a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent. Fifteen is extraordinarily high,” Ridgefeld Housing Authority Chairman Frank Coyle said, noting filling vacancies hasn’t been as high a priority as it should be as it struggles with previous management issues.

Speakers address the gathering at Ballard Park in Ridgefield for the National Day of Prayer ceremony. Photo taken Thursday, May 5 2011

Speakers address the gathering at Ballard Park in Ridgefield for the National Day of Prayer ceremony. Photo taken Thursday, May 5 2011

Scott Mullin / ST

According to Coyle, the authority’s delay to move people in has in part emanated from management turnover in the last year, an issue that has decreased the revenue of the authority and presented challenges. The authority uses a property management firm called Konover Residential Corporation to oversee the housing operations at all four properties, which provides them with a property manager and assistant property manager.

However, the office is on its third set of managers since February 2020. Coyle said the lack of staff made it difficult for a property manager to succeed and that there were some candidates chosen who simply did not have sufficient experience for the role.

The combination of employee turnover and staff shortages created a situation where the office stopped pre-qualifying people on waitlists, which stalled the process from moving along rapidly and made the residents “nervous” when their issues weren’t always responded to in a timely fashion, according to Coyle.

The Board of Selectmen broached the subject while reappointing Janet Hebert as a commissioner to the authority during a meeting on May 5.

Hebert pointed to the approval process for these apartments is “labor-intensive” during the meeting, emphasizing that the properties are not “apples to apples” and each has different eligibility requirements.

She also said a property manager has to call the next person on the list three times for their acceptance and on the off chance there is no response, the manager must send a certified letter alerting them that they are no longer on the wait list.

The authority is now working with Konover to ensure the vacancies are being handled “the right way” and “expeditiously,” Coyle confirmed. The company sent a couple of experts over to help the property manager fast track the processes.

Still, Coyle believes filling the empty apartments shouldn’t take so long.

“We’ve got to do a better job getting the right people in and putting in better processes,” he said during the meeting.