Elizabeth Grim, Partnership for Strong Communities Policy Analyst
There’s nothing quite like moving across the country and searching for an apartment to become acquainted with the housing landscape of a city. Given that I work in housing, I find this fascinating and moving to Connecticut recently was no exception.
As a young professional, the critical requirements in my housing search included safety, affordability, and proximity to peers, restaurants, and recreation. Conversations with friends suggested that West Hartford would fulfill most of these requirements. The caveat was affordability; surprisingly only 19% of Connecticut’s cities and towns offer affordable housing.
Since I conducted most of the background work remotely, I relied on online searches and local contacts for insight and later flew to Hartford to visit the properties. Having lived in Washington, D.C. and now moving from a major university town, I was accustomed to new construction being in close proximity to resources. I was disappointed to discover that, here, new construction is reserved almost exclusively for owner-occupied condominiums. Updated rental units were rare, expensive, in locations far from the office, and lacking access to public transportation, social outlets, and safe running paths.
The new CTfastrak bust-rapid-transit line will reduce some of these challenges but for now it is clear that Hartford County, in particular West Hartford, is a landlord’s market. Despite the high rents, many of my scheduled apartment viewings were cancelled over the course of the three days I was in town because they had already been rented.
I discovered that to meet my desired specifications I needed to compromise between proximity to resources, affordability, and amenities. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to Connecticut having one of the largest declines in the 25-34 year old population between 2000 and 2010. It took considerable negotiating and diligence but I eventually found a unit that I find workable. I am, however, fortunate in that I understand the housing system and have access to personal transportation and the economic resources to make adjustments to my original plan. Many others do not, which can present huge burdens on individuals and families when seeking housing.
So what’s the takeaway? Rental housing in Connecticut has room for improvement. Affordable housing needs to continue to be developed and these initiatives must consider proximity to recreation and resources as key factors in determining location.
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