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Hartford Companies Helping Workers Make City Home

Housing Incentive: Program encourages workers to live in the city

Hartford Courant Editorial

June 06, 2012

In the Hartford of long ago, industrialists built housing around their factories to attract and retain workers and strengthen their neighborhoods. The plan worked and helped turn the city into an economic powerhouse.

Can a 21st-century variation of this idea work the same magic?

The MetroHartford Alliance has launched a homeownership incentive program in which major employers will give employees financial assistance to live in the city. Thus far, five city corporations Aetna, Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Trinity College are each offering five $10,000 grants to eligible employees to encourage them to live in Hartford.

Employees chosen for the grants must live in the home for five years and remain with their employer for the same amount of time, said Julio Concepcion of the Alliance. He said the program is modeled after similar ones offered by Yale University and MassMutual Financial Group. The Yale program has brought more than 1,000 university employees into New Haven.

The idea has much to recommend it in Hartford as well. It means more middle-class people, the cohort most active in civic affairs, and fewer suburban commuters jamming the highways. It is smart growth; it adds density to an already built environment. Companies often find it helpful to have workers nearby. "It gives the city a different feel to see people walking and biking to work," said Mr. Concepcion.

Hopefully more companies will hop onboard. The city also has a key role to play. Nearly three-quarters of the housing units in the city are rental. That's not a bad thing, but it means there are relatively fewer dwelling places to buy. City planners, working with the state and private market, should try to fill some of the empty spaces within walking distance of downtown with various kinds of middle-class housing in other words, do what the old factory owners did.

The new plan, part of a broader effort by the Alliance to promote city living, is a great start.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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