When people talk about real estate these days, conversation is usually dominated by news of the slumping housing market and the leveling of home prices. But in many parts of Connecticut, the downturn of the market has not been enough to make buying a home affordable for working residents.

A recent infusion of half a million dollars to a Stamford organization that helps Connecticut residents purchase their first homes will help between 30 and 60 families achieve the American dream. Northeast Utilities last week gave $500,000 to the Housing Development Fund under the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program. The program allows companies to give state tax dollars directly to approved affordable housing initiatives.

The Housing Development Fund applied to the finance authority, which allocated the tax credits to establish the Workforce Housing Downpayment Fund. HDF then went to Northeast Utilities, and the company immediately offered to fund the entire amount.

“To have a major employer like Northeast Utilities step up to the plate to fund a Workforce Housing initiative made a powerful statement,” HDF Executive Director Joan Carty said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful that Northeast Utilities shares our commitment to strengthening our communities by giving our teachers, police, firefighters and other key workers the opportunity to live closer to where they work.”

The Workforce Housing Downpayment Fund will help first-time homebuyers purchase homes that are at least one town closer to where they are employed.

“One of the things we really like about the Workforce Housing grant is it gives us a chance to weave our policy positions to our work,” Carty said.

The fund ties in the excessive transportation congestion to the fact that people are just trying to get to their jobs, she added, noting that helping people move closer to their work improves the quality of life for everyone in the community.

The fund will provide financing to close the gap between first mortgage funding and the price of the property. According to HDF, the money the homebuyers save by having a shorter commute will help them pay for the homes and other monthly expenses. The fund will pay for the down payment and closing costs of up to $15,000 per household, and HDF hopes it will help the 30 to 60 families over the next three years.

Northeast Utilities, which is based in Hartford, got involved with the program because its executives are aware of the affordable housing and transportation issues in Fairfield County.

“HDF does such great work in the communities it serves and provides a truly important resource,” said Ray Necci, president of Connecticut Light & Power Co., which is a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, in a prepared statement. “Here in Connecticut we are fortunate to have a program like the CHFA Housing Tax Credit Contribution Program and an organization like HDF that not only puts out tax dollars to extremely good use solving community problems, but leverages those funds as well.”

‘A Steady Growth Pattern’

It has been a good year for HDF. The organization recently celebrated a major milestone.

“A few months ago we had our 500th homebuyer, which we’re particularly proud of, because this is such a tough and expensive real estate market to work in,” Carty said.

Manal Bostati and her three children, along with her cousin, Muhanad Malas, had been living in an apartment in Fairfield up until late last year. Now they live in a 1,200-square-foot home in Fairfield,

Bostati, a 36-year-old who came from Syria, is a student at the University of Bridgeport, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. She works nights and weekends in the local Stop & Shop flower shop. Two of her children attend Housatonic College.

“We’re so happy and excited to celebrate the New Year by living in our own home again,” Bostati said in a prepared statement. “Unlike the apartment, here we have privacy, a wonderful backyard and friendly neighbors. It’s wonderful to know that we have a home that belongs to us.”

Last June, the HDF received a $3 million grant from the state’s Housing Trust Fund, a $100 million, five-year fund designed to help create or preserve housing for low- and moderate-income working families by providing gap financing.

“We’re on a steady growth pattern,” Carty said.

The organization hopes to use $1 million of that money for down payment assistance and $2 million for multifamily financing.

“We are thrilled with the infusion of public-sector resources that are coming at a critical time in meeting the need for affordable housing,” Carty said then. “We have long had investment of significant sums from the private sector, and now with this real public-private partnership, we stand to make an even greater impact. HDF is grateful to the governor and all the legislators – particularly our local delegation – who had the will and the vision to establish the Housing Trust Fund. It’s a dream come true.”