Inventory of housing options underway in Hartford
City seeks to see if new developments meet area employees’ needs

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News Staff

Jan. 5, 2018

Benjamin Dominguez with Grand Appliance and TV wheels a refrigerator into one of the apartment units in the Birch Crossing Apartment Complex on Tuesday afternoon in Hartford.
John Ehlke/Daily News

The ribbon cutting for another new housing development in Hartford, along with other recently completed similar projects, have prompted city officials to begin an inventory of how many apartments are available in Hartford and at what rate.

City Administrator Steve Volkert said the new inventory will be a tool for the city, developers, and businesses and industries who might want to consider Hartford as a their new home.

“A while back (about 18 months) some local employers said Hartford needed more options for employees to live in. That with everything that’s come on-line and will be coming in the new year, we want to know if this is still an issue” Volkert said. “Likewise, if the inventory shows any weaknesses we can pass that along to developers to look at for filling that gap.”

In 2016 the city conducted an online and paper survey which was circulated to top local employers. They were asked what they want to see in housing to help employees live in Hartford. Tom Hostad, executive director of the Hartford Area Development Corp., said earlier such surveys are a valuable tool for development in the city and surrounding area.

“It can help show area employers what kind of wages will support the types of housing employees said they want or need — especially entry-level employees,” Hostad said.

City Planner Justin Drew said at the time when the 2016 survey was conducted, “Hartford has long had a goal of maintaining a housing composition of 55 percent single-family, 15 percent two-family and 30 percent multi-family.”

Volkert said the results of the recent projects and those that could be completed in the next 18 months or so could show that inventory has changed enough to warrant focus on different areas of the city’s housing market.

Volkert said the city, inn housing/building inspection department, has a list of all multi-family units in the city.

“What we’re trying to do with this new inventory is put that list together and then contact names etc. through the utility companies and try to get hold of the owners or the managers of those buildings and see how they’re doing,” Volkert said.

Volkert said there are different aspects in the survey that can help the community.

“We can find out what their rate is, what their cost is, and then we can then put it into our formula and see what does the average person have to make to be able to afford this apartment,” Volkert said. “That, of course, is going to vary according to the average rate to rent that apartment. Then we can also see if there is a gap somewhere. Is there a ton of one-bedrooms that are available, or two bedrooms or three bedrooms or where do we really have a lot of inventory that could be rented?”

Volkert said the survey information will not only help individuals connect with available apartments when they are looking to move to Hartford, but it also helps city officials when they talk to future developers.

“We might then be able to say there’s a ton of vacancies right now in that range so you might want to change the direction you are going with on this,” Volkert said. “We want to have an observation based on fact. If there is a gap then we’re going to try to help and get more developers to come into the community, but if there is not a gap then what we need to do is make sure that we are addressing the employers with the facts that we have a certain number of apartments at a rate that employees need.

“Maybe they need to hire at the current going rate as to what it takes to rent an apartment,” Volkert said. “It’s taking all this perception of what Hartford offers and taking all this information with facts behind it so we can move forward on helping local workers find a place to live locally.”

There are, Volkert said, new apartments on Wilson Avenue and there are additional ones “going up” at that location.

“We’re also looking at another possible apartment complex,” Volkert said. “It’s the North Bookend project at State and Main streets which could add another 77-70 units — it could be down to 62 units now — in downtown. The question is, once all these come on line, what are we going to look like? What will be our next emphasis?”

Volkert said the city now has an inventory of about 200 vacant lots for for single-family, duplexes or condos development. He said that’s a decent inventory, but it’s not a “great” inventory.

“We’d like to have between 300-400. One of the things we’d like to do now is get another subdivision on the north side off Main Street,” Volkert said. “We don’t want anyone to fail in a development.”

Volkert said it’s hoped that “by the end of January we’ll have a pretty good grasp on the inventory’s results.”

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