Restoring the missing middle: an affordable housing plan for Hartford
Hartford must provide a path to home ownership
We all need a place to live in. For many families, housing remains one of the biggest, and most critical, monthly expenses, one that has an impact on everything from their health to their children’s education. Cities must ensure that residents have access to housing that is both affordable, well-maintained, and has good access to jobs and services. This is the one policy that policymakers should make a priority to get it right.
Hartford has taken significant strides to make housing more affordable in recent years. The elimination of mandatory parking minimums has enabled developers to build new units at a lower cost, especially downtown. Loosening regulations on housing units and sizes helped to bring to market new affordable rental apartments in many areas. Working Families elected officials have been key supporters of these reforms.
Despite this progress, Hartford can do much more not just to facilitate new development and lower housing costs, but to make housing policy and home ownership the cornerstone of network revitalization across the city. Hartford remains unaffordable to many of its residents. Almost half of the renters in the Hartford metro area are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs; more than a quarter pay more than half of their income in rent. Within the city, 61 percent of renters are cost-burdened. This problem is made worse but the fact that Hartford has a lot of renters — 73 percent of city residents rely on a landlord for housing, one of the largest shares of any city in the nation.
The prevalence of comparatively expensive rental housing, as well as low rates of home ownership, has a severe impact in our city. Home ownership contributes to neighborhood and family stability, as well as allows homeowners to build wealth. Homeowners will also be much more involved in their community and invested in the city’s future than an absentee landlord will ever be. Buying a house, however, requires a considerable initial investment, especially for working families living paycheck to paycheck –even more so when most housing in the market is either single-family units or expensive luxury condos downtown. For Hartford to close its housing shortfall, we must both address expensive rents and promote home ownership in the city.
This needs to change. Hartford must provide a path to home ownership to its residents while reducing their housing cost burden. As a candidate to the city council for the Working Families Party, I am committed to pushing for policy solutions to achieve these goals.
Hartford must provide a path to home ownership to its residents while reducing their housing cost burden. As a candidate to the city council for the Working Families Party, I am committed to pushing for policy solutions to achieve these goals.
Fortunately, there is a way to fix both problems: investing in the missing middle of the housing market. Hartford, like many cities in America, has neglected new construction of the kind of properties that lie between low-density single-family housing and the mid-rise and high-rise condos downtown. Structures like duplexes, triple-deckers, townhouses, rowhouses, or courtyard apartments offer the opportunity of denser, more walkable neighborhoods in our city while offering housing options that can be affordable both to renters and buyers.
These types of housing are far from unusual in New England. In fact, most of Hartford’s working-class neighborhoods close to the old trolley lines are lined with triple-deckers providing affordable, reasonably dense housing. Due to a mix of zoning regulations and political apathy, new construction on middle-density housing has largely disappeared, forcing prices upon existing properties.
We can fix Hartford housing woes. Doing so will require a decided push for new development that is not just focused on downtown, but on the needs of working families in our city. Hartford has the tools to promote middle-density housing but lacks the political will. Promoting home ownership and affordable quality housing will be my first priority as a city councilman.
Moise “Mo” Laurent is a Working Families Party candidate for Hartford City Council.
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