Courtney Nelthropp: No single volunteer has done more to positively impact the quality of life for so many Stamford families as has Courtney.    As commissioner and chairman of Charter Oak Communities (COC), formerly the Housing Authority of the City of Stamford, for the past 18+ years, Courtney has been the unassuming, yet driving, powerful force behind COCs dramatic transformation of Stamford’s low and moderate income housing.  Under his firm guidance, COC has become a team of professionals that is the envy of the housing advocates all over the country including US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which consistently recognizes COC as High Performing.  Their direct development efforts have spurred numerous public-private partnerships resulting in an investment of $400M in Stamford’s community infrastructure, with more on the way.

Taking on the challenge to abandon the outdated public housing model that stifled one’s quest for personal dignity, independence and economic self-sufficiency was a daunting task in the 1990s,  Courtney was able to communicate to residents, public officials, and the community that Stamford’s public housing program was not only worth maintaining, but that it should be completely revitalized.  He believed that traditional, often blighted public housing facilities could be turned into safe, wholesome and integrated communities.  A once novel concept is now recognized as the model for community renewal in America:  reshaping obsolete public housing into new, mixed-income communities that have enhanced neighborhoods while offering residents opportunities and hope for a brighter future.

The fact, that the many market rate townhomes in each of these new communities rent up immediately, and that initial renters largely remain, is the ultimate testimonial to the vision Courtney had and instilled in so many others along this nearly twenty-year journey.

Courtney’s enlightened leadership has been instrumental in:

  • Redevelopment of the 1930’s Southfield Village into Southwood Square, which has also a resurgence of, the West Avenue/Selleck Street commercial district.
  • Redevelopment of the 1930’s Fairfield Court into Post House, Taylor Street (serving both disabled residents and middle-income homeowners) and Fairgate which has been a catalyst for the rebirth of Stillwater Avenue into a Village Commercial (redevelopment) District.
  • Redevelopment of the 1950’s Vidal Court into the multi-award-winning Westwood and Palmer Square and soon Greenfield, three of Stamford’s premier, mixed-income residential communities.
  • The renewal of Stamford Manor (26 Main Street) once viewed as housing of last resort for elderly and disabled residents into a safe, active, well managed and bright facility in the heart of the Mill River Corridor. 
  • Strategic partnerships that have been formed and nourished by Courtney and his COC team include:
  • Stamford Hospital - creative land swap enabling construction of the new hospital and creation of the innovative Vita  Health and Wellness District, which will provide a unique off-campus component including retail, educational, community and parking facilities, along with Fairgate Farm.
  • Family Centers – placement of professional Resident Service Coordinators in each of COCs communities
  • City of Stamford – acquisition of roads, dam removal to enhance the Mill River environment, financial participation and countless other collaborative efforts.
  • The Private Sector – through the City of Stamford’s innovative Fee-in-Lieu program, literally millions of dollars have been leveraged from for-profit developers into the metamorphosis of mixed income public housing.
  • Federal Partnerships – obtained two sought after HOPE VI grants (totaling $46M) for public housing revitalization and a Sustainable Communities grant for development of the Vita initiative

-Richard Redniss
2009 Champion of Housing

The Fairfield County Affordable Housing Network links local leaders who are working to increase affordable housing opportunities in Fairfield County’s suburban and rural communities.  The Network meets regularly to learn from each other and from outside resources about “best practices” that helps them build quality, affordable housing in their own towns.  The Network is staffed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and funded by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) and a grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
Towns active in the Network include Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Ridgefield, Westport, and Wilton.
Each town in the Network has its particular needs, issues and challenges – be it housing for seniors, for its workforce, for women and children, for its young adults, creating housing policy or some combination of these.  Similarly, the men and women who make up the Network bring to it a wide variety of backgrounds and levels of housing and community development experience.   Through participation in the Network they are discovering common interests and strategies for increasing affordable housing options in their hometowns.

Charlotte T. Suhler
Partnership for Strong Communities, Chair
Darien Affordable Housing Advisory Commission, former Chair
2010 Champion of Housing

Stephen Grathwohl
Real estate management, sales and development
Affordable Housing Committee, Town of Fairfield

Judy Holden
Retired funding development consultant to nonprofits
United Way of Greenwich Workforce Housing Study

New Canaan
Penny Young
CT Commission on Aging
New Canaan Town Council member

David Goldenberg
Brand strategy, marketing communications and content-development
Chair, Ridgefield Affordable Housing Committee

Valerie Rosenson
Lawyer; legislative aide; private and public sector experience
Wilton Commons Senior Housing, Board member